Wow... a conversation!
Payroll day. Steve leaves Friday. Check for nights off shift.
Team meeting tomorrow night before shift. Make sure everyone knows.
Send me a summary report of the possible reasons for mismatching stock and sales reports. This is becoming a matter of concern.
Move the stack of Heineken in the staffroom back to the private bar where it belongs.
Celeste closed her email down and found herself marching up and down the staffroom to vent furious energy. Ian didn’t treat anyone else how he treated her; even his PA received the occasional please and thank you. She’d initially thought he had a prejudice against people who weren’t super-polished, but she’d worked on that a lot since Steve arrived. Not that he’d noticed, apart from one mumble of ‘nice top.’
She slammed furiously back into her chair and opened up the online accounting software to get on with the payroll. Her nails, stamping across the keyboard, were now polished. Not French-tip or anything, just tidy and shiny. Her light brown hair was layered down to her shoulders and looked thicker and healthier. She wore eye-liner and lip-gloss, and she’d even abandoned her trainers for ankle boots. The world still wasn’t quite ready for the sight of her in crop-top and hotpants, but she was presentable. Her infuriation gave her steam power and she rattled through the payroll in two hours, even with Big Craig moaning about his frozen shoulder, Rude Craig giving his dad abuse down the phone about blocking his car in, and Sandra making as much noise as humanly possible while getting coffee.
Eventually they cleared out again and Celeste let her head drop back over the cushion of her seat, letting fatigue take its hold for a few moments. Part of the exhaustion was her mum’s fault; hoovering and day-time sleeping did not combine well.
Most of the exhaustion was Steve’s fault.
She’d never had a crush this severe. She wanted him to do things to her that she’d never admit to—not even if encouraged by an interrogation lamp, four scary henchmen, and a shot of Sodium Pentothal.
She imagined him fastening her wrists with his tie and pressing her face-down over the staffroom table, nudging her legs apart with her knees.
Celeste squeezed her knees together in her seat, feeling a deep inner flex. She gripped the arms of the chair, trying to resist that creeping heat that spread outwards slowly from between her legs. She was getting fixated, and she barely knew him.
When she flopped down on her bed after shift, all she had to do was close her eyes and part her legs and he’d be behind her in the bath, stroking Foamburst across the inside of her thighs, his touch light and unhurried. As the bath filled, the lapping of the water against her tightening, sensitive pussy would make her clench inside, needing a firmer touch, needing his fingers inside her. He’d stroke a slow and maddening trail with a single fingertip from her inner knee to her entrance and circle it there until she was panting. Then he’d turn the shower to ‘jet’, subjecting her to a clit assault that would have her tossing her head against his chest, gripping his thighs, begging him to raise the pressure. As the tightness gathered inside, he’d trap her against him as she writhed, elbow to waist, fingers over shoulders, forcing her to accept the climax building and slamming through her bod—
She jerked out of her seat so fast she slammed her hip against the edge of the table and fell back, seeing Ian’s ferocious expression through watering eyes. He clamped his hands on her shoulders, pushing her all the way back into her chair.
“You got asthma or something? I didn’t see that on the list of existing conditions you gave HR.”
“I don’t… have asthma.” She tucked herself back behind the table, still gulping like a woman drowning. A woman drowning in embarrassment. She pointed at the laptop. “I’ve done the payroll.”
“Did you pro-rata Steve’s last pay?”
“No. He started on a Friday, so it’s a complete week.”
“But he only did three days last week.” Ian raised a blond brow at her. “Please don’t tell me you’re doing the payrolls without double-checking the time-sheets?”
Yes, she had been. Because people told her the days they were off, and she made a note of it. Which had worked fine, up until now. She felt her voice go thick and clogged in her throat. “U-usually I assume a full week unless someone says—”
“So it’s everyone else’s job to make sure you do yours properly?”
“Good. So re-do those slips, and be more thorough next time.” He headed for the door and stopped to glare at the Heineken crate. “There still seems to be beer in the staffroom.”
Ian gave a mirthless laugh. “I specifically recall asking you to move them. I asked politely and— I thought — pretty clearly.”
You are a book-keeper! Not a bloody skivvy! Stand up for yourself! “I-it’s not my job to stock the bar. And if you’re going to talk about asking for things politely and clearly, why are you still ignoring my r-requests for an office?”
“Really? You’re going to play tit-for-tat over this? Most of your work is late, Celeste. You’re not in a good place to make complaints.”
“Most of my work is late because I can’t concentrate! I’ve got people barging in and out every few minutes, and the boys have to use it for a changing room because you won’t fund the shower refits! If you want me to focus, give me somewhere to work!”
Ian gave a long, flat stare and massaged the bridge of his nose with his manicured fingertips. “Jesus, I just asked you to move a fricking crate. So… if you got your little office, would that make you happy?”
“It would help.” She snapped a pencil under the desk, hating him blackly for making her feel like an unreasonable toddler.
The door pushed open and Steve stumbled in, his chin, neck and collar a bloody mess. Celeste darted over to the kitchenette to grab paper towels, which she pressed into Steve’s hands as he sank unevenly into her seat, keeping his head low between his knees. She put her hand on the back of his neck as he leant heavily against the side of her desk.
“Steve, are you okay?”
“Will be. Bit woozy.”
“Did you hit your head, buddy?”
“Good. So when you’re fit to get back out there, Celeste can get you a spare shirt.” Ian left, pointing at the crate as he went.
Steve sat up a little, reminding her that she still had her hand on his neck. She removed it, missing the warmth under her palm, and still reeling from being backed into a corner by that utter bully and not having the words to deal with it. Steve shook his head in disbelief.
“Never met such a self-obsessed tosser with such a straight, un-broken nose. Where the hell did they get him from?”
“Oregon, apparently.” She leant against the desk, riding the cloud of getting a full sentence out of Steve. So, he did speak, after all. “Ian’s here for six months on one of those international business exchange programmes to expand young executives’ horizons. ‘Bastards without Borders’, or something.”
Steve laughed and winced, dabbing cautiously at his face. The bleeding had stopped. She fetched him a damp cloth and a salsa beat kick up in her chest as he tilted his face up to her expectantly. For a few quiet moments, she cleaned him up carefully with shaking hands while he sat patiently, letting her move his face this way and that with a light hand on his jaw.
“It’s perfect.” She felt a heat bomb go off in her face as he got to his feet, his eyes twinkling with gentle amusement. She cleared her throat as he stripped his gory clothes off. “So, how come you’re going on Friday? I thought Colin was taking extended paternity?”
“One vertical pee in the eyeball too many, he tells me. And apparently he can’t get close to his wife without baby Barney going off like a noise bomb. He’s coming back to work for a bit of rest.”
“Do you know him?”
“Yeah. Old mate.” Steve slipped his own clean shirt and jacket on then bent and picked up the beer crate. “Listen, do me a favour? The pillocks are out in force tonight and I don’t want you wandering into any idiots. Get a taxi home, yeah?”
“I will… thanks.”
She felt oddly lost as he went back to work. Did that little cleaning up moment mean anything? Or was he just being more friendly? Frankly, she had no idea. She was absolute crap at reading body language.
But she decided it didn’t matter whether he fancied her or not.
Two nights… she had two nights to tell him she liked him. Even if he knocked her back, she didn’t think she’d ever forgive herself for not taking the risk.