If he had to quantify what he feels for Gail, it's not love.
Not even the one-sided illusion of love, like with Nora. It's not simple lust or desire or an arrangement. He has all those things with Bobbi and had them with Kelly. Like Joanne (and doesn't that send his brain into a tailspin of what-ifs and oneupsmanship?), Gail is in a category all to herself.
Jim doesn't ever admit it aloud, but he needs Gail, and not just for her professional assistance. If things between them hadn't worked out, he'd have pulled another girl from the secretarial pool and trained her the way he needed. She would have been competent and understanding and very likely disposable, once she'd learned what he was really up to. But Gail pulled herself up to an executive assistant from lower-middle-class origins, and did what he requested not for him, but for her mother. For family.
Jim understands about family.
Gail surprises him with her intelligence - and her worthiness. She does what he asks, but never unquestioningly. There has to be a reason they conduct business the way they do, and as long as he explains to her the end result he's angling for, she's on his side. She does whatever it takes - her manipulations of Batewell proved it initially, and her silence on the McLean issue have only reinforced it - and never takes anything she gets in return for granted. Not the money that keeps her mother in the best care facility in the world. Not the new promotion he's received - senior VP, Pete's old job with the negotiated-for anonymity - and the upgrade in status that allows her. And not even their relationship, which he didn't foresee coming.
A good businessman will prepare for all possibilities, and he had. He'd expected Gail would one day experience regret over something he'd asked her to do, and come to him for reassurance. They would talk and flirt (because underneath Gail's nervous exterior around him, there's always been a part of her fascinated by powerful men) and he'd draw her into bed, reassuring her by touch that she's needed.
That wasn't what happened at all.
She walked into his office late one night - the Keyworth merger was set to happen in two days and Chaz was driving them all harder than usual - and flicked the lock shut behind her.
"Did you need something, Gail?" he'd asked, not needing to look up from the stack of files he was paging through to know it was her.
Who else would come into his office unannounced these days?
He heard the blinds swish closed and the click of her heels - designer black and silver pumps she'd come in with after the promotion - as she rounded his desk. Her voice was unexpectedly smooth.
"Not really. But you look like you do, Mr. Profit."
"Now that you mention it, I could probably go for a coffee and a couple-"
"That's not what I'm talking about."
Before he can even think to ask, she slides between him and his desk, pushing his chair slightly back with the toe of her shoe. He looks up and she's wearing a blue silk blouse and black skirt, having abandoned her jacket to the coathook near her desk long ago. The silver chain on her throat glitters, and he admires it because it looks like nothing Nora or Bobbi or anyone else would wear. She leans against his desk, head tilted in that inquisitive way of hers that he recognizes.
It's the drive to be better than society expects of you - the drive that pushed Jimmy Stakowski to set that fire and become a permanent fixture of Gracen & Gracen. Jim Profit lives by that drive, and Gail Koner's got it in spades. She doesn't say anything, just looks him directly in the eye, and he couldn't be more shocked.
She's speaking his language: Acquire. Command. Possess.
"You have my attention."
She smiles, a flash of teeth that lends her a sharpness she doesn't commonly display. "Good. Do you trust me, Jim?"
His first name. Interesting - he'd pegged her for the type that would call him "sir" or "Mr. Profit", even in bed - but not unwelcome. He likes the way it sounds from her lips: quiet, but authoritative. The steel backbone she'd first displayed while knocking out Jeremy Batewell shines through in her voice, and he nods in response to her question. She's not satisfied, though.
"I asked you a question," she says, crossing her legs at the ankle and tapping her foot against the carpet. "I think I deserve a verbal answer, don't you?"
"Yes to what?"
So this is how she's playing it, then? She gives the orders this time, and he follows them? It shouldn't feel right, giving up authority to her, but she's making it so easy. A gift, because she sees this is something he needs, but he knows she expects something in return. Give and take, then; an exchange. This, he can understand.
"Yes to both, Gail. You do deserve an answer. And you know that I've trusted you with everything, these past months."
Little white lies. Everyone tells them - no honey that dress doesn't make your butt look big, of course I remembered to take out the garbage - that's why they're acceptable. He tries not to lie in general, because creative usage of the truth makes it all the more fun, but Gail's learning. She's getting good at reading him, and he's not sure if that's a good thing or not.
This time? She can tell as soon as he's opened his mouth. She slides her leg forward - he hasn't moved his chair since she slid between him and the desk - and nudges his legs apart, spreading them wide to either side of her. An eyebrow arches, and she shakes her head.
"Not everything, Jim," she says, directing a pointed gaze downward. "You haven't gotten laid since Kelly. Unusual for you."
Well, that was irritating. If he wasn't half-hard, dick tenting his suit pants just enough to be noticeable, she probably wouldn't have thought to use that as leverage. Jim enjoys sex - when it's not a chore, like with Bobbi sometimes, or something to be avoiding, like with Nora - and yes, Gail's right. It is unlike him to go so long without it. If he's not currently attached to a woman, he usually calls up some of the more high-class escort services and brothels. Takes the edge off, lets him concentrate on work, and best of all, he gets what he needs with none of those pesky strings.
Jimmy, be a good boy and finish Momma off with that tongue of yours.
I can't do this, Jim. What if Pete finds out?
How does it make you feel when you do this to people, Mr. Profit?
Gail's stocking-clad thigh rubs against his, and his gaze flicks back up to her, letting her see how his pupils are undoubtedly dilating. She's not pretty, not gorgeous, but beautiful in her own way, especially when she's showing initiative like this, and he lets her see that.
She smiles again. "If I ask you to do something, will you do it for me?"
He could debate with himself. Is it worth getting involved with her? Worth the body count if and when it ever comes out? What does he get out of it, other than getting laid? What does she get out of it? In the end, it doesn't really matter. Jim knows he has trust issues - that he's never been truly honest in a relationship - and that, as partners go, he could do (and has done) much worse than Gail Koner.
"Good. Unzip your pants and take your cock out."
Direct, isn't she? He hesitates, and that's all she needs to brace herself against the desk and plant one heeled pump directly on his groin. It's not as bad as Kelly's stilettos, but Gail has more control than Kelly ever did, in a few different meanings of the word. She presses down delicately, and he can't stop the gasp she causes.
"Did you hear me, Jim? I told you to do something."
Her foot eases out of its perfect arch, and the heel presses harder into his cloth-covered groin. Oh, she's got beautiful feet - he doesn't usually fixate on body parts, he's never considered himself an "ass man" or a "breast man", but Gail's tiny little feet exercising such control over him is attractive, in its own way. Better show a little humility, though, before she presses too hard. He doesn't actually like pain, but toying with the edge of it is fun, especially when you're playing with someone who knows the game.
"All right," he breathes, relaxing a little as she removes her foot. He unzips his pants, folding the separated halves of his fly down so they don't get in the way, and pulls his dick out. If Gail's surprised he doesn't wear underwear, she doesn't show it. "What next?"
Gail slides herself up onto the desk, skirt hiked up around her hips, and rests her heels on the arms of his desk chair. "Keep your hands on the chair. You don't get to touch yourself until I say so."
Oh. She does know him, then, knows him well enough to smirk at the apparently-intrigued look on his face. His cock jumps - an interesting and novel sensation - at the sight of Gail sliding her pantyhose down her legs, followed by her panties. They're plain white cotton high-cut, absolutely what he'd expect her to wear to the office, and he's a little disappointed as she folds them together and places them on the desk, out of his reach.
She's got his undivided attention, though, when she replaces her legs to either side of him, allowing him to look at her cunt, using her fingers to spread apart the damp curls. Her hands are delicate, but show no hesitation as she circles the tip of her opening with her middle finger, dipping it shallowly inside herself and trailing the wetness she finds up to her clit. He can feel his breathing start to get faster, and his hands clench against the chair as he watches her rub her clit eagerly, going straight for it unlike many women he's encountered. They'd toy with their pussies, trail fingers over outer and inner lips and graze at their clits, but Gail goes right for what she wants.
She lets out a series of squeaky gasps as the tempo picks up, and he makes the mistake of raising his eyes to her face. Oh, she's delicious like this, head tilted back, exposing her throat unthinkingly. He wonders if she's doing it deliberately, knowing him and his proclivities as well as she does. She couldn't have hit on a better temptation for him, and he hardens further. She licks her lips, and he unconsciously groans, low under his breath.
Her eyes flick open, and she grins at him. "Something you want, Jim?"
Fuck, yes. He wants to pull her forward and bury his face between her legs until she screams. He wants to push her back and fuck her until she blacks out. He wants her against the wall and bent over his desk and any way he can get her, really. He wants to see what she looks like when she comes.
He doesn't have to say any of this, though - she knows it as well as he does. Her talent for anticipation of his needs serves as well sexually as it does any other time, and she takes one foot off the arms of the chair to press the heel into his shoulder. He hisses in pain, and just barely keeps himself from rising to his feet to touch her. The muscles in her calf knot and flex as she rhythmically drags the heel of the shoe against his shoulder, snagging on the fabric of his shirt. Gail's hand has slipped back down to slide two fingers into herself, and her hips roll upwards off the desk to meet her hand. She stills her hand, going slowly and deliberately enough to ensure his complete attention (not that she needs to, but it speaks to her experience with this type of play that she's capable of it), then does something with her fingers that makes her sit bolt upright and cry out.
"Please, Gail, please," he says, barely realizing he's speaking. "Let me see. I'll be still."
She gasps, then nods. "Stay in the chair unless I tell you to. If you're good, you can fuck me any way you want."
"Promise. I'll be good, Gail, just please, let me see."
"All right," she breathes, her hand resuming its flickering motions.
He doesn't move a muscle, even though he's rock-hard, dripping pre-cum and sweating through his suit. If he moves, this will end and fuck, it can't. Not until he's seen her scream, and if he's got to be good to do it, he'll fucking roll over and beg. God, if Bobbi could see him now. She'd be in hysterics, calling him her "good boy" and inquiring why she couldn't get such obedience out of him in sixteen years with her tits and cunt and goddamn belt.
But Gail is not, and never could be, Bobbi Stakowski.
Gail is her own special brand of strong, and he watches her spiral out of control with all the respect she deserves. Her left hand has ripped open her shirt, twisting and pulling at her nipple as she fucks herself with the other, eyes never leaving his. She is in control, and he does not mind. He echoes every gasp, every cry, with his own and the words come pouring out.
"That's it, Gail, that's it. Stronger than me. God, so much stronger than me. I'd have cracked and you know it. You know me, Gail, you know me and I should kill you for it, but you're so fucking good for me that I can't."
She shrieks, hips snapping off the desk as the word "kill" leaves his mouth. The hand on her breast reaches out for him as she cries out a "Jim, oh fuck, please", and he grabs it, pulling her down onto his lap. He barely has to adjust before he's thrusting into her, and they exhale moans into each other's mouths as they kiss furiously. She's relentless on top of him, and he's all over her, can't get enough. Savoring the taste of her mouth, hands slipping through her blouse and bra to touch her breasts, thumbs stroking over her nipples, skimming down her stomach and legs, delving between them to pick up the rhythm she'd abandoned on her clit.
He's so far beyond control right now he should be concerned, but he isn't, not when Gail's hot and tight and wet around him, gasping and crying out his name. And he's just breaking all of his rules, isn't he, as he pulls her closer, wrapping arms around her back and breathing every single sin he's ever committed into her mouth.
I set fire to my father and our house when I was a child. I finished the job last year.
I've been fucking my stepmother since the age of fourteen.
I framed Jack Walters. He's rotting in a prison cell where I should be.
I let my stepmother manipulate her way into becoming Chaz Gracen's mistress and heroin dealer.
I killed Joanne Meltzer in Ireland. I let Nora kill Arthur McLean six months ago. I'm going to kill Pete when he outlives his usefulness in the Senate.
I've thought about killing you dozens of times over. I don't know why I haven't ever tried.
"I know," Gail whispers back, and he comes.
She shudders and follows him into climax. She almost doesn't let herself totally relax - it would be so easy for him to snap her neck right now, and she knows it - but he kisses her, and strokes a hand down her back. He tries for a calming motion, but he knows and she knows it's not quite there yet. He still needs to work on that kind of emotion.
"If I ever do it, it won't hurt," he says. "It'll be painless. I don't want to hurt you, Gail. I have plans for us."
Her weight settles into his lap, and she lays her head on his shoulder. Trusting him is a wise decision, not that she's made any bad ones so far, and he appreciates it. Loyalty is easily bought, but true, honest trust? It's a rarity. But that's Gail for you. Diamond in the rough.
He's going to make her shine.