Oh, Eliza had plans for this bathroom. Saperstein had really shelled out on the luxury accommodations and she, for one, was going to kick back and enjoy it. Those fluffy bathrobes and heated floor tiles were getting Instagrammed within an inch of their decadent little lives.
Vanity lights, towel warmer, complimentary bath bombs, marble countertops—hey there, detachable showerhead with multiple settings, come here often? Massive shower. Massive garden tub as its own separate, beautifully polished entity. Rugs as soft as newborn kittens. Tuberose lotion and vanilla sugar body scrub.
Good thing this was supposed to be a retreat, because she was going to retreat all the way into this bathroom and never come out. She had never looked better in her life than she did in this mirror.
It felt like there was an actual chance this second closet door would take her into Beauty Narnia. She caught herself holding her breath as she turned the doorknob.
Over there in Beauty Narnia, Henry put his iron down, turned around, and looked confused. “Were you hiding in my bathroom?”
“Let me answer your question with another question,” Eliza said. “Are you really ironing your socks?”
“I tend to think my question’s more important,” Henry said, with a kind of adorable busted blush spreading across his face.
“I came out of my bathroom, where I was reveling, not hiding.” She looked back over her shoulder at her own personal—now slightly less personal—mini-spa. “Saperstein must have set us up to share.”
“That’s incredibly inappropriate,” Henry said, batting some of his perfectly ironed socks onto the bed like he thought she wouldn’t notice. “I’ll trade rooms with someone.” He looked—uncharacteristically disheveled all of a sudden, still all flushed and with his lips parted, and it was one of those hot-painful moments all gift-wrapped to remind her how much she wanted him and couldn’t have him. Leave it to Henry to get preemptively annoyed by, what, the mere idea that she might leave her towel on the floor and somehow still make her feel like she needed him so much it was going to split her open.
She approximated chill. “Come on, don’t make me share with Linda. I just feel it in my bones that she brings a shower radio along to listen to NPR.”
“If Linda wants to be culturally enriched during her spare moments—”
“Besides,” Eliza said, “I’m the best bathroom roomie ever. Never in my life have I put the toilet paper roll on the wrong way around, and I know you’re the kind of guy who cares about that. And I pinky-promise not to leave my hair in the drain or pee with the door open.”
Now he looked like she’d just flashed him again. Sexual hunger and indecision town, population Henry. (As opposed to sexual hunger and eternal frustration town, population Eliza.) She rewound the conversation and then felt something click, like a thumb flicking against a lighter wheel and sending a flame licking up inside her.
Okay. Was that all they’d been missing? Because she could work with that.
Thank you, magic bathroom.
Henry had no workable, coherent explanation for why he hadn’t asked Saperstein about switching around the room arrangements. Surely Eliza could live with Linda’s shower radio.
They were mixed-gender coworkers. They shouldn’t have connected rooms.
Except there was no one in the world he was closer to than Eliza Dooley, no matter how little he would have believed that a year ago. He couldn’t seriously make the argument that either one of them was a threat to the other or even a threat to the other’s dignity.
Mostly because he’d already lost whatever dignity he’d had with the sock-ironing. Eliza had no sense of the benefits a crisp line could bring to a gentleman’s sock.
And besides, the doors locked both ways. They could give each other all the privacy in the world.
But he still could have put the request in. He’d have some leverage with Saperstein if he bargained with additional future karaoke performances.
And yet somehow, he let the first day of their weekend retreat wind down without even bringing it up.
Eliza sat next to him at half the breakdown meetings, poking a bright pink straw endlessly around among the ice cubes at the bottom of one of Charmonique’s patented barely debauched tropical sunrises (“I decided to rule out complete alcoholic virginity,” Saperstein had said, “although there will, of course, be water available for the unadventurous or otherwise disinclined”). The barely debauched sunrises were served in enormous hollowed-out coconuts and topped with little paper umbrellas. When Eliza wasn’t fiddling with her straw, she was furling and unfurling the umbrella.
He looked at her cool, gold polished fingertips against the little slide of the toothpick umbrella. Out, in; out, in.
They were only fifteen minutes into Raj’s hour-long presentation, and Henry had already watched the umbrella flare and deflate at least a hundred times.
He tilted his notepad just barely in her direction and wrote, Please stop that.
Eliza looked over and then pushed everything on her part of the table aside so she could, apparently, make a thorough record of changes to section B3-1-C and B3-1-F of the Human Resources guide.
Henry, are you passing notes to me?
I’m tilting notes at you. There’s a distinction in etiquette. And I have to draw a line in the sand at you playing with that paper umbrella.
Consider the line drawn. Do you want my extra fruit?
Henry was the only one in the room who’d stuck with water and he had, in fact, resented that this meant he was the only one in the room who hadn’t inherited practically an entire deli container of fruit salad. Yes, please.
Eliza slid her coconut over to him, offering up a selection of chilled raspberries, kiwi slices, and pineapple chunks. Henry leveraged them out with the pink straw. Each of them was cold and sweat and soaked through more sweetness and just a hint of inviting, alcoholic warmth. And if he was so starved for sensuality that he wound up essentially making love to the remains of someone else’s cocktail, he really needed to get a hold of himself. He plucked out the last bit of boozy raspberry and passed Eliza’s coconut back to her.
He wrote, Why do you keep slurping at that when I can verify that there’s nothing left?
I live in hope. And the ice is melting. She sucked again, enthusiastically, her cheeks hollowing out briefly around the straw, and something in Henry twinged. She added, Besides, I’m thirsty.
You didn’t even have that coconut until you’d already had two bottles of water, Henry wrote, but then he crossed it out. He didn’t know that he liked how much he liked where this was going, and even more than that, he didn’t know that it was a good idea to let Eliza lead him down this particular path. Their friendship mattered to him; it sure as hell mattered more than any sexual curiosity he’d never even found to be worth the risk of indulging. He could hardly pretend that he didn’t want her. But there were attendant risks to them completely overhauling the nature of their relationship, and a few minutes of slightly concussed epiphany in a skate park didn’t exactly change that.
Nor did the fact that Eliza had apparently deduced, well, a possible interest.
If he’d really made up his mind to date Eliza, he needed to go after it in a straightforward, reasonable manner. And for the right reasons.
Which could not possibly include the way Eliza kept swirling her straw around in the bottom of her coconut. Or—anything else.
Henry managed to hold onto that solid, well-worked-out plan of action until the retreat’s activities had finally wound down for the day.
“I want everyone to reflect,” Saperstein said solemnly. “On teamwork, creativity, the fulfillment of personal and professional dreams. Take the time to really process what we’ve learned today. There will also be a poker game in my room starting at eleven PM.”
“Because nothing brings people together like a game of lies and financial loss,” Henry said to Eliza, pitching his voice too low for anyone else to hear.
“Yeah, I don’t play here anymore,” Eliza said. “Joan is a total card shark. The woman has never made an unwilling facial expression in her life and she thinks in numbers. So what are you going to be doing at eleven?”
“Most likely sleeping. I might put on a little HGTV, get some ideas for home repair.”
Eliza just nodded. She breezed past him and into her room with a cheerful, “Night, Henry!”
Well, he didn’t trust that at all.
And, though he’d known this for months now, he didn’t like seeing her walk away from him. He didn’t like going to bed without her.
There was no way Eliza was waiting until eleven PM, even if it would make sense to make sure everyone else from their department was busy losing their firstborn kids to Joan over a pair of twos. She’d budgeted an hour to watch some porn on her laptop to strategize, and she was only halfway through video clip number four when her clit was throbbing so badly that she decided something had to be done stat. She felt almost dizzy with want, but still weirdly powerful. Henry wanted this, and she could give it to him. She could pop his top like a motherfucking champagne bottle.
She strode into the magic bathroom feeling like the whole world was at her feet. Her heels clicked on the heated tiles.
She opened Henry’s door. Realizing he hadn’t ever locked it, even after all his prissiness about the shared bathroom, was way more intoxicating than any of the coconut drinks.
Henry was lying on his bed.
He was very definitely not watching HGTV.
His hair was disheveled. He’d changed into a black T-shirt and dark blue cotton pajama pants, but the pants and his boxer briefs were rolled down, exposing how tightly his hand was wrapped around his cock. His teeth were sunk deep into his lower lip.
For a second, Eliza almost turned around. Her head felt like a carousel kicked into overdrive, fear and need and anticipation spinning out of control. Grab a stallion and hop on. But she could fuck everything up. She could be pushing him too far. Hadn’t she learned by now that just because Henry wanted something didn’t mean he liked getting it?
He’d wanted her. And he’d walked away and left her standing there, like she was standing here now, in her short skirt and fuck-me heels and half-unbuttoned blouse. They both looked undone.
But he wasn’t yelling at her to get out. Instead he made a slightly choked noise and said, “Eliza—” and bit down on his lip again, muffling the sound.
Eliza turned and walked back into the bathroom, letting him hear the ringing click of her heels on the floor. She left his door wide open, the blue darkness of his room like a framed picture to her inside the golden-lit bathroom; she knew it was the opposite way to him. He was going to walk out of her fantasies—Henry Higgs, loose and sloppy and desperate—and into his.
Which, okay, were now also going to feature prominently in her own jerk-off routine, but Eliza wasn’t good at not being turned on by things, especially things that had the potential to take Henry from schoolmarm zero to yes-please sixty in two seconds flat.
Come on, she thought. Begged, almost. Come in. You know we both want you to.
He’d pulled his pants back up, but it couldn’t disguise that the hard-on was still there, as prominent as ever. Eliza let her eyes linger on it.
She said, “I’m not crazy, right? You want this?”
Henry looked flustered, but his dick was apparently propelling his courage at the moment, because he said, “You’re not crazy,” in a rough voice that made her burn even more. “I’ve never done it before, though.”
“Me neither. First time for everything.” She swung herself up over the edge of the garden tub, her heels still on, and stood there. “Me on you? You on me?”
Henry’s Adam’s apple worked in his throat for a second and then he said, “You on me.”
“That works.” She crooked her finger at him. “I think you should ditch the clothes, though. Plus, I really want to get another look at you.”
“It’s just a fantasy, Henry,” she said, and she was surprised by the way her voice shook slightly. “You don’t have to have breakfast with me afterwards or anything. I don’t have to be the girl of your dreams. We can just be friends, or fuckbuddies, or whatever. Wherever I fit into your plans.”
She’d been ready for him to hesitate again, but now he stripped down instantaneously and joined her in the tub, wrapping his arms around. His body was so warm. It felt like she could just tremble and jerk against him, sob and scream out all the months of frustration and heartbreak into the curve of his shoulder, and he’d let her. She wanted to. But she was also horny as fuck, and this was naked Henry in her arms. She lined her cunt up with his leg and rubbed against him, letting out a ragged moan.
“Eliza.” His fingers against her chin. He kissed her eyelids. “You’re brave.”
“Yeah, I really know how to put myself out there. Thousands of Twitter followers agree.”
He shook his head. “You’re brave, and beautiful, and you deserve a hell of a lot better than I’ve been able to give you, and the fact that you think for one minute that I would really, truly have you in my arms and then be able to walk away from you—let me make that up to you. But not by being your friend. Or your friend with benefits.”
“Are you literally unwilling to say the word fuckbuddies?”
“You know what’s crass? How wet I am and how hard you are and how we’re standing in a bathtub so I can piss on you.”
There was a tiny, brief flicker of shame, but Henry pushed past it. “Date me. I don’t need anything else.”
She leaned against him, sure he could feel the heat of her cunt against his thigh. She’d slipped her panties off back in her room and she knew he could feel that.
“Date me forever,” she said. “Pass me notes in work meetings.”
“Do you like me?” Henry said, tracing the line of her jaw. “Check yes or no.”
“I check yes.”
“I check yes too,” Henry said. “I’ll date you forever.”
“Good.” She couldn’t control the smile that spread across her face, and when she pulled away from him, she saw that she’d left a lipstick smudge on his shoulder, the shape all stretchy with happiness. Henry looked good all marked up, and she wanted to mark him more.
She pushed her skirt up, showing him her bare cunt. He let out a thick, barely stifled groan and sank to his knees, falling back so he was sitting on his heels. He pulled her down with him, her skirt rucked up around her hips, her legs straddling his. His cock jutted up against her. It would only take another wiggle, another rise and fall, to sink down onto the length of him, and she was so hot and slippery wet that she knew it would have been no problem at all.
She wrapped her arms around him and moved her hips forward at his nod. She tried to relax.
With him, with everything checked yes, it was easier than she ever would have thought.
She felt warmth stream out of her, and fuck, the knowledge that she was pissing on Henry, that she was sitting astride his lap and just letting go, that her piss was streaking down his thighs, down his cock that was already so hard for her—that he wanted her this much, needed her this much, that she could even do this, mark him up, make a fucking mess out of him, and he’d let her—
She almost whimpered at it all, and that was before she even noticed the look on his face, which was pure shock and ecstasy. And then he was reaching for her, slipping two fingers inside her and putting his thumb against her clit, bringing her off as she wriggled in his lap. She was so close to him, her body constantly brushing up against his, that he came just from that, his skin slipping over hers. She could feel his come on her like she was all over him.
She felt sticky and sated and happier than she’d ever felt in her life.
Blissed out post-orgasm state of the wardrobe assessment: this skirt was toast, but she could roll with that. It was a knock-off anyway. And she could clean the heels.
She sighed, easing down into the V of his legs and leaning against the opposite side of the tub.
Henry’s eyes were dark and gorgeous. He didn’t look like a guy who had regrets.
“I think,” he said slowly, “that this is a historically good company retreat.”
Eliza grinned. “Facilities are excellent.”
“Staff participation unprecedented.”
She pulled her knees up and unhooked her shoes. “Bath?”
Henry considered it. “I think the showerhead has a few settings that I could interest you in, if you wanted to relocate.”
She lolled back against the smooth porcelain back of the tub, letting her eyes flutter close. She wanted the showerhead attachments, sure, but she also wanted to tunnel down into this afterglow and never come up for air. And was she yawning? That had better be a post-coital yawn. Just because she was dating Henry didn’t mean she had to fall into his weird early to bed, early to rise weirdness. But she caught herself yawning again.
“Here,” Henry said, moving around so that he was the one with his back to the non-faucet side of the tub. He pulled Eliza back against him, letting her head rest against his chest. He wrapped his arms around her.
“You’re like my Henry blanket,” she said sleepily.
He pressed a kiss against her temple. “This is what I wanted more than anything else. Just you. Falling asleep next to me.”
“I’m on top of you.”
“And I’m incredibly uncomfortable,” Henry said. “I could really use a pillow and probably some more back support.” He wound a strand of her hair around his fingers. “But we’ve got forever to work all that out.”