Chapter 1: chapter one
“I’m worried, Kath.” Regina’s staring at herself in the mirror, running her hands anxiously over her body, smoothing down the pencil skirt Kathryn had suggested she wear. She usually loves getting dolled up, but not today. It’s the first job she’s applied for since graduating with her degree in English Literature, and she’s convinced the interview isn’t going to go well. Kathryn had gone through countless jobs before realising she could never work under someone, and had finally set up her own business. What if Regina finds she’s the same? What if she can never settle on a job she loves? What if she goes through life starved of fulfillment?
“Gina sweetie, you’re overthinking. Just take a deep breath, okay?” Kathryn’s hands skim over Regina’s shoulders, squeezing gently as she tries to draw out the tension built up there. The tall blonde fusses quietly with her friend’s hair, sliding in one last bobby pin to secure the intricate updo. “You’ll smash it, you’re more than qualified for the job.”
Regina supposes Kathryn is right; she’s applying for a job as a personal assistant in a fancy hotel, yet she has work experience on her resume that would qualify her for a position in a law firm, if she made a good enough impression. She’s great at those, all thanks to her mother’s countless lessons and strict rules forced upon her throughout her childhood.
Just as the petite brunette begins to feel a little more reassured, a harsh knock sounds at the front door, and the tension comes racing back. Her whole body stiffens, throat closing up as she fights the dread swirling in her gut. Kathryn shoots her a sympathetic look that makes her grimace, before leaving the room to answer the door.
Thinking that her boyfriend would want to drop her off at her interview to wish her luck, Regina had asked him. It’s the kind of thing David insists on doing for Kathryn, and they aren’t even together, so sue her for thinking Robin would want to do the same.
Instead, he’d moaned and complained about it over the phone to the point Regina had thrown her phone across the room and cried herself to sleep.
To his credit, she had received a very apologetic voicemail from him the following morning stating that he’d love to take her to her interview, which Regina had accepted, albeit warily. It’s safe to say that Kathryn had lectured her once again on the toxicity Robin carried with him like the plague -- the blonde hates him -- but Regina had chosen to skilfully ignore her, as she always does these days.
(She knows her relationship with Robin is unhealthy. He’s a cheating scumbag. But he’s also safe. On the rare occasions he’s actually nice to her, she feels special. It’s pathetic, because he’s the last person that should be making her feel loved, but with the lack of affection shown to her in her childhood, Regina’s willing to take anything she can get, even if it means putting up with his, verging on verbally abusive, behaviour.)
“Regina! Robin’s here!” Kathryn’s voice floats up the stairs, and even in the seemingly innocent call, Regina can hear the not-so-hidden hatred in her voice. Releasing a long, hopefully calming breath, the brunette forces her shoulders back and plasters a smile on her face, desperately hoping it doesn’t look as false as she thinks it does.
Robin’s lewd grin immediately turns to a frown as she descends the stairs, and Regina instinctively braces herself for attack. “You’re not wearing that,” he says bluntly, folding his arms somewhat authoritatively across his chest.
Regina sighs. She should have known they’d have this conversation. She’s sick and tired of dressing according to his shitty rules; she feels good, and she knows she looks good, so yeah, she’s going to wear the damn skirt. Narrowing her eyes, she grabs her coat off the hook and shrugs it on, determined not to back down. “Yes I am, now let’s go.”
Shocked at the fight her girlfriend is putting up, Robin’s thin lips curl up into a harsh sneer. “I’m not driving you anywhere with your legs on display like that. They’ll know you’re the little slut you pretend not to be.”
She had so wanted to stand up to him, she really had, but those words coming from his mouth cut deeper than she’d expected. Her mother’s words swim around her head, the echoes taunting her, those words from her childhood forcing tears into her eyes. You’re such a slut, Regina, cover up.
Immediately spotting the brunette’s reaction, Kathryn steps in front of her and glares at Robin. “I suggest you shut your mouth right now and drive Regina to her interview, okay? Otherwise you’ll have a knee coming for your tiny dick before you can blink,” she snarls, eyes flashing dangerously.
Robin gulps audibly and casts his eyes to the floor, scuffing his shoe against the carpet. Kathryn nudges Regina forwards gently, prompting her to leave the house, pressing a quick kiss to her cheek for good luck. The brunette flashes her a grateful smile, and ducks past Robin, heart still pounding in her chest.
“Watch it, Locksley.” Kathryn gives him a final glare before ushering him out of the door, using perhaps a little more force than necessary.
After a painfully long drive — Regina only timed it to be eleven minutes and forty eight seconds, but it felt like a lifetime. Robin slams on the brakes outside The Swan, sending the small brunette lurching forwards in her seat, belt digging in sharply to her neck. Fighting the urge to speak out, Regina gulps down her sniping words and stretches her lips up into a smile. She thanks him sweetly, but makes sure to slam the car door extra hard in response, which she knows he hates.
Blatantly ignoring the yell she gets as she stalks away from his car, Regina gathers her thoughts and tucks them away neatly in the little box in her brain reserved especially for him. (She’s not going to lie, it’s nearly full.)
His aggressive shout of “slut!” echoes around the quiet street, causing an unwelcome heat to rise to Regina’s cheeks. The scattering of people on the sidewalk turn to stare at her, and she ducks her head to the ground, hurrying into the warm embrace of the hotel reception.
Releasing a quiet sigh of relief, Regina raises her head with a faux confidence that’s well-practised, and stares around, trying to find someone to direct her to the job interviews.
A slim woman with dramatically curled chestnut hair catches her attention, a name badge pinned clearly to her pink silky blouse. Regina moves towards her, heels clicking over the marble floor, clutching her purse by her side. “Excuse me?” The woman whips round, eyebrows raised impatiently. “Uh, could you point me to the interviews for Ruby Lucas’ personal assistant, please?”
The woman’s lips curl up into a sneer immediately, and she releases a cackle Regina’s fairly certain isn’t human. “I’m not your slave, bitch.” The small brunette is taken aback by the harsh attitude, and she can’t help but take a hesitant step backwards. “Watch yourself. Don’t get tangled up in Emma Swan’s business. Trust me, you won’t like what happens.” With that, she marches off, head held high and mighty.
Regina watches, dumbfounded as to what just happened. Was that a threat? A warning? God, she’s too tired for this.
Clearing her throat quietly, the brunette glances around to find a kinder employee to point her in the right direction. It seems like today is more of a battle than she’d hoped for.
After managing to find a more helpful employee to point her in the right direction, Regina finds herself stuck in a lift with a dozen other impeccably dressed people. She’s suddenly glad Kathryn fusses over her the amount that she did, because everyone looks simply gorgeous, which she supposes fits with the high calibre of hotel.
As the doors ping open for the third time, letting another stream of people out, a girl shuffles in, red curls falling down her back, a pretty smile stretching her lips apart. “Hi! You look as lost as I am. Are you here for the interviews, by any chance? I’m Belle.” The woman extends her hand politely, and Regina grips it in response, flashing a soft smile at the slightly younger girl.
“I’m Regina, and yes, I am here for the interviews - you caught me.” She releases a throaty chuckle that has Bella grinning wildly, smoothing down her bright blue blouse unconsciously.
“I think we’ll be great friends.”
Regina isn’t usually one for making friends, let alone talking to strangers, but she finds herself weirdly comforted by the woman’s presence, and she wonders if a friendship perhaps wouldn’t be so bad.
They get off on the fortieth floor, shoulders brushing as they both stare around, stunned into silence at the shique elegance of the place. Employees appear to be rushing back and forth, left and right, all walking with a purpose Regina can’t imagine having.
She’s caught up in admiring the bounciness of the red carpet when Belle tugs on her forearm and pulls her towards a clearly printed sign directing them to the left. Regina follows willingly, unused to being surrounded by such grandeur and glamour.
(Throughout her upbringing, they’d been just short of poor, with enough money to get by but nowhere near enough to fund the common pleasures of life she so desired. Things had changed since her father’s death, and her inheritance of a reasonable sum of money that paid nicely for her college tuition. But now that’s all gone, and she’s stuck rooming with Kathryn. Don’t get her wrong, the girl is her best friend, but she hates inconveniencing other people; she’d honestly rather live alone.)
Regina’s dragged back to the present as they’re approached by a long-legged woman armed with a clipboard and a beaming smile. “Hello, I’m Ruby Lucas, Deputy Manager here at The Swan . Can I take your names please?”
Ruby scans her clipboard quickly and picks out their names, snapping her head up quickly and flashing them a toothy grin. “Alright Miss French, you’re with me. And Miss Mills? You’ll be interviewed by Ms Swan herself. Good luck!”
Regina’s not sure she likes the sound of the hastily added good luck added to the end of her sentence. It sounds ominous. She thinks immediately back to the threatening woman in the hotel reception, warning her to stay away.
She walks numbly towards the office at the end of the corridor with the big door, assuming it’s the one where Emma Swan resides. People shoot her odd looks as she passes them, which does nothing to calm the anxiety coursing through her veins.
Gulping audibly, the brunette knocks, hopefully loud enough to be heard. A faint come in floats through the door, forcing Regina to face her fears and enter the office.
There’s a blonde figure standing by the floor-length windows, dressed in an elegant pantsuit, effortless waves tumbling down her back as she leans casually against the frame. Regina immediately feels heat flood to her centre, and she squeezes her thighs together desperately. Now is definitely not the time for this to be happening. She’s here for a formal interview, for God’s sake.
“Welcome, Miss Mills.” The blonde spins around, a sultry smirk painted on pale lips. Regina has to stop herself gasping, biting down firmly on her bottom lip to prevent her jaw from dropping. Emma Swan is simply breathtaking, her fitted blazer outlining toned muscles, the top button of her shirt tantalisingly undone. Fuck.
“M-Ms Swan.” It takes all the strength Regina has not to fucking curtsy. It’s wrong, so wrong, because she barely knows this woman and they’re here for an interview, but she suddenly finds herself almost desperate to just be thrown up against that window and fucked into oblivion.
Tucking her hair behind her ear nervously, Regina shifts her weight from foot to foot, trying her best to maintain eye contact as Emma flashes her a teasing smile and moves closer.
“Why do you want to work for me, Miss Mills?”
Emma’s only an inch away from her now, so close that her fruity perfume assaults the brunette as she stands frozen, body on fire. She could so easily just lean forward and—
“Oh, um, I…” Regina scrabbles around for an appropriate answer, wishing her earlier practice with Kathryn would come flooding back to her. Before she has a chance to continue her sentence, Emma lifts a slender finger and places it gently on her lips.
“Is it because you find me hot, Regina ?”
The brunette gasps out loud, eyes widening as she presses her fingers into her hip to maintain self control. She wants so badly to give in, to frantically agree and let Emma take her against the window. But she can’t, and christ she really needs to get ahold of herself.
This is wrong, this is wrong, this is wrong .
Emma leans forward without waiting for an answer, lips hovering teasingly.
Regina panics, too torn between staying and leaving that she lashes out instinctively, palm coming into contact with a soft cheek as she jumps backwards. Without looking to see the wild surprise in Emma’s eyes, she turns and runs from the blonde’s office, heart thundering in her rib cage.
Chapter 2: chapter two
helloooo i’m back! this received good reviews so i’m back with chapter two. uploads might be slow because i’m in the middle of preparing for my final exams! but i managed to finish this, so enjoy!
very tiny tiny tw for the last paragraph. it’s so small but i want to make sure i don’t trigger anyone!
Regina ends up on the street, panting harshly as people strut past, ignoring her flushed cheeks and wheezing breaths as they go about their days. Fighting the tears that are battling to spring into her eyes, she fumbles around in her purse and pulls out her phone, shakily finding Kathryn’s number in her emergency contacts.
It rings once, twice, three times before her friend pics up, tone surprised as she eagerly asks what’s wrong. Regina relays the story to her, leaning heavily against the wall as she lets Kath’s voice pierce her ears through her phone; she should have prepared herself for the onslaught of death threats and protective comments from the blonde.
(She does get rather too protective.)
Kathryn’s promising to pick her up before Regina even has a chance to ask, which is honestly a relief. She feels like crawling into bed and staying there for the next two weeks, wallowing in self pity.
She feels stupid for being so upset; Emma hadn’t really done much, but the actions, while seductive, had been all too similar to that of Robin’s. The brunette is no stranger to her boyfriend forcing himself upon her, and the overwhelming fear that Emma had been about to do the same is what prompted her to lash out as she did.
Regina deliberately ignores the part where her body had been aching for Emma, begging her to just take her against the wall. She might be sinfully attracted to the woman, but she does not want to be known as a woman who sleeps her way to the top. She’s better than that.
Before she can dwell on Emma’s sharp cheekbones and intoxicating scent any longer, Kathryn pulls up on the curb and calls her name. Regina is jolted from her thoughts, and walks hastily to the passenger seat, legs still shaking slightly.
“Hey babe, you alright? Want me to go in there and teach that woman a lesson?” There’s a familiar anger in the blonde’s eyes, one similar to the hatred she has for Robin. It’s unnerving, and Regina hopes that hatred is never directed at her.
“Thanks Kath, but no. I just want to forget about it.”
Kathryn hums lightly as she steps on the gas and pulls away. “I can do that; how about we go clubbing tonight? You’ll definitely forget about everything once you’ve got a few shots in you.” She winks cheekily, and Regina can’t help but giggle. She isn’t normally one for parties, but perhaps this is what she needs.
“Sure, why not?”
There’s a bouquet of flowers on the doorstep when they arrive home, one so beautifully arranged and bursting with life that it almost brings tears to Regina’s eyes. Her first thought is that they’re from Robin as an apology for earlier, and although she hates herself for it, her heartbeat skyrockets.
“I can’t believe he’d do something like this! How kind of him,” Regina comments, unable to help the smile that stretches across her lips.
Kathryn picks them up, admiring them, albeit skeptically. “Wait, look, there’s a tag.” The soft swearing alerts Regina that perhaps the bouquet is not from Robin. “It’s from that woman, Emma Swan. She’s the one that interviewed you, right?”
The brunette’s eyebrows rise in genuine shock. Why has Emma sent her flowers? “Give me that,” she snaps, tugging the bouquet from Kathryn and scanning the tag hurriedly.
I am extremely sorry for what happened earlier. I would love for you to give me a chance to explain things. My number is at the bottom; please call me. Take care,
Confusion floods through her. Explain things? What the hell is that supposed to mean? “Christ Kathryn, I don’t have the energy for this,” she mumbles, pushing the flowers into her friend’s hand before unlocking the front door and stumbling inside, already beginning to feel a migraine permeating her skull.
She needs a fucking vodka.
After an hour of pleading, Kathryn had managed to persuade Regina to rethink her sudden refusal to leave the house with the temptation of a new dress and a girls’ night: just them, no men.
Regina is actually kind of glad she agreed to come out; she feels sexy as fuck in the short black dress, and with a few shots coursing through her veins, she’s having the time of her life. The bass vibrates through the club, lights dancing around the room as they dance, grinding up against each other and giggling every few minutes.
Well, she was having the time of her life.
Everything comes to a complete standstill when August swaggers up to them, cocky smirk in place as his eyes roam up and down Kathryn hungrily. “Hey ladies, fancy seeing you here,” he greets, immediately slinging an arm around the blonde’s waist and pulling her into him.
Kathryn gasps at the sudden action but happily presses herself into him, unconsciously winding herself around him. Regina watches, heart sinking as she realises their ‘girls’ night’ is over.
(August is Kathryn’s boyfriend. Kind of. They’re fuck buddies, to put it crudely, but Regina’s pretty sure they’re verging on dating. It seems like they’re together almost everyday, constantly all over each other, but there’s a tender love lingering between them which is admittedly kind of cute.)
“What are you doing here?” Kathryn asks, humming quietly as he smoothes his fingers over her hip and round to her ass.
“I came with Robin, he’s uh, over by the bar.” August rubs the back of his neck awkwardly, painfully aware of how much Kathryn hates the man. Regina’s heart plummets further, bottoming in her gut as she glances discreetly to the left, spotting Robin’s smug smirk from where she's standing.
A familiar disgust swirls in her stomach as she pastes a fake smile onto her face. “I’ll go and talk to him. You two have fun,” she lies, wrapping her arms self consciously around her middle as she approaches the bar, suddenly not so confident in her dress. She can already hear Robin’s scathing tone telling her how slutty she looks, how she’s practically asking to be raped .
Regina knows his behaviour is horrific, and she almost thinks she doesn’t deserve it, but he takes great pleasure in telling her that she deserves everything she gets from him; maybe he’s right.
As the brunette gets closer, she sees Robin approaching a gorgeous woman. Anyone else would be furious at the flirtatious smile he shoots her, and the very obvious lust swallowing his iris’, but Regina only feels relieved. Thank god she won’t have to talk to him.
Tucking a strand of hair behind her ear, Regina perches on one of the bar stools and motions to the bartender for a few vodka shots. She’s not in the mood to fuck around.
(Her mind immediately drifts to Emma, which somehow manages to set her nerves alight, her core aching with need.)
“Hey sweet cheeks, how are you doing?”
Regina rolls her eyes. Now really isn’t the time for this. Her head is swimming — yes, she’s just (read: a lot) beyond tipsy — and she can’t say she’s responsible for her actions if anything goes wrong.
“No thanks,” she mumbles, knocking back a shot and slamming it down on the bar. The man blinks, unphased, and only steps closer, leering grin firmly in place.
“Aw baby, don’t be like that. Let me buy you a drink,” he persists, arm grazing Regina’s as he leans against the side, the stench of alcohol uncomfortably present on his breath.
“I’ve already got a drink.”
“Then I’ll get you another.”
“But I don’t want—”
“Is there a problem here?”
That voice. Regina recognises it. It’s familiar, very familiar. As she looks up from her shot glass, she realises why.
It’s Emma Swan.
Regina tries to mask her shock; why the fuck is Emma here? How had she known this is where she’d be? The blonde looks sinfully good in tight black pants and a silky shirt unbuttoned to show a teasing hint of cleavage, something which forces Regina to cross her legs a little tighter and shift discreetly in her seat. How dare the woman make her feel such things?
“I was just buying this gorgeous lady a drink,” the man says smugly, not at all affected by the intimidating presence. Regina finds herself shrinking unconsciously in her seat as she watches Emma’s eyes darken with anger, hands balling into fists by her sides.
“I don’t think so. I quite clearly heard her say she didn’t want one, so I suggest you leave.” The blonde’s voice trembles with a kind of silent anger that Regina thinks might just be simultaneously the hottest and scariest thing she’s ever seen.
Fuck, keep it together, won’t you? She did almost assault you earlier, don’t forget that. Chewing on her bottom lip to stop herself getting too carried away, the brunette keeps her eyes glued to Emma, the roaring of her heartbeat thudding in her ears.
“Calm down love, no need to get your panties in a twist,” he jibes, cackling at his own joke.
“You will not speak to me in such a way, Mister. I think you’d like to know that I own this club. Now get your fucking ass out before I ban you for life,” Emma growls, jade eyes darkening angrily as she takes a threatening step forwards.
Her voice does things to Regina, awful things. She can feel her clit pulsing with the desire to be touched, heat spreading from her core into the pit of her stomach where it bubbles, growing as she watches the man’s eyes widen in fear. Unable to help herself, the brunette tries to press her clit down into the hard edge of the stool, whimpering quietly under her breath as the bud grazes the wood.
As the man leaves, sulking off into the darkness of the club, Emma rushes forwards, the anger replaced with bright concern. “Are you okay? Did he hurt you?”
Regina clears her throat and clenches her thighs together, trying to shake the lust clouding her vision. “N-No, I’m okay.” The brunette forces herself to remember the blonde’s near-assault, and her eyes harden, jaw firmly set in place. “What are you doing here?”
Emma looks mildly put out by the sudden change in tone, but brushes it off, determined to do what she came here for. “Like I said, I own this place. But um, since you’re here, I’d really like a chance to explain myself. Please?” It seems like asking in such a way is not something the blonde does usually — why would she? She’s the owner of a multi-million dollar hotel empire. Regina’s heart tells her there’s no harm in hearing the older woman out, but her head still refuses to cooperate.
“No, I don’t want to hear it,” she snaps, turning resolutely back around to the bar and downing another shot. The liquid no longer burns the back of her throat like it should; instead it’s comforting, like a burst of courage.
“Please, Miss Mills. I don’t care if you hate me afterwards but I— I don’t like the thought of you not knowing why I acted in such a way.” Emma’s voice is pleading, jade eyes wide with sincerity. Regina stares at her for a moment, unable to find fault with her words, and finds herself relenting.
“Ugh, fine, but make it quick.”
The blonde’s eyes light up, and her pale lips stretch into a wide smile. “Thank you. Do you mind if we go somewhere a little quieter? I promise you’ll be safe.” Emma seems nervous to ask, quite rightly , Regina supposes. Call her a bad judge of character, but the brunette doesn’t think the woman is going to do anything to harm her, despite the morning’s occurrences.
“Lead the way. But I swear to god, if you try anything I’ll call the police. I don’t care how famous you are,” Regina warns, narrowing her eyes.
“Of course, Miss Mills.”
“Call me Regina.”
They end up in a small, sleekly furnished room, dimly lit with hanging lights. Emma clicks the door shut, but consciously leaves it unlock so as not to make Regina feel trapped. The blonde gestures to the couch, but the younger woman shakes her head, opting to stay standing, arms folded around her waist protectively.
“So? Get on with it.”
Emma scratches the back of her neck nervously, trying not to be put out by Regina’s snappy tone. “Uh yes, of course. I-It was a test. I wanted someone professional, someone who wouldn’t be distracted by me. Of all the women I interviewed, you were the only one who fought back. The others all let me kiss them, whether they wanted it or were too scared to stop me. I… I wasn’t trying to frighten you. It was just a test, a bad one, I suppose. I’d love it if you came by the hotel in the morning for a proper interview; you can say no of course, but you’re the only one I want working for me, and I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself if I took away a decent job from you because of my silly test.” The blonde scuffs the toe of her shoes into the carpet, displaying an anxiety Regina’s sure doesn’t come out much.
She doesn’t really know what to think. Emma seems genuine — really genuine, if the wide, almost pleading eyes are anything to go by — but she doesn’t know if she can cope with going back to The Swan and having another interview.
“I… I’m not quite sure what to say, if I’m honest.” Regina rubs the material of her dress between her fingers, worrying her bottom lip as she looks up at Emma through thick lashes.
“Of course, you don’t have to decide now. Just come if you’re interested, say 10AM?”
Regina nods in agreement, oddly charmed by Emma’s caring attitude. The brunette isn’t used to people putting her feelings first, or even considering what she might want — bar Kathryn, of course, that woman has always stood by her — so it’s a pleasant change, despite her original impression of the businesswoman.
There’s a vaguely uncomfortable silence, so Regina says the only thing she can think of. “Can I leave now?” The disappointment that clouds Emma’s face is painfully obvious, but it disappears as soon as Regina blinks, hidden behind a bright smile and accepting eyes.
“Of course Regina, have a lovely evening.”
The brunette pushes the expression of hurt swimming before her eyes to the back of her mind and forces a half smile. “Thank you, you too,” she says gently, lifting her hand in an awkward wave before leaving the room.
Emma stares after her, jade eyes wide with a foreign kind of longing she’s not used to. She rubs her thumb over the cuts on her forearm, unconsciously tugging the sleeve of her shirt down to over them.