Amanda Fox leaned on the picture window in her office and gazed at the Manhattan skyline as she sipped her mug of latte. Her eyes rested on a rooftop not far across the street, and noticed a young couple making out by the pool.
The guy started peeling the woman’s dress off until she was completely naked. She laid down on the tile and spread her legs out before him as he took his clothes off. Then he knelt down between her parts and devoured her with his mouth. The woman arched her back and squirmed in obvious ecstasy. Amanda gasped.
The scene inflamed her. She quickly stepped back from the window and felt the sudden wetness that pooled between her legs. She longed for that touch.
Although it tempted her to watch as the live event unfolded, she had other things to focus on at work. She turned her back from the window and breathed out a lung-full.
The company just announced her nomination as Aglow’s next CEO. It overwhelmed her. It had only been three years since she joined the company, but she’d climbed the corporate ladder faster than anyone had expected.
The prospect of heading one of the top companies in the beauty industry elated her, but her competition — Agatha Pierce, one of the company VPs, was someone who had been with the company longer than she had. It was a tough contest.
Her relationship with Agatha had been acerbic since she started at Aglow. During meetings, the woman would attack every proposal she laid on the table with contempt. She made her look stupid or incapable. Amanda never attacked back, but always gave a sound argument to shut her down.
She knew that to win the position, she had to prove to the board she was worth their votes. How she could persuade them — she had no idea.
Her thought bubble popped when Joan, her assistant, rushed in. “Miss Wang is here,” she said, out of breath.
“This early? I thought the meeting is at four?”
“Yes, but she just called, and wants you at her office. Like… right now.” Joan grinned.
Aglow’s founder and CEO Valerie Wang seldom called for anyone at her office. She came to the office only to attend meetings and left immediately after. Nobody went to her office for a casual chat because they had to take a lift that required a security key card handled by Wang’s security detail.
There can only be one reason for the summons. Damn, she’s going to put me on the hot seat.
Without another word, she strode out of her office straight to the elevator hall where a tall woman in a black suit waited for her.
“Good morning, Amanda, I’m here to take you to Miss Wang’s office,” she said.
“Good morning, Mia, I hope I didn’t make you wait too long.”
“Nope, you’re right on the dot, Amanda. Here we go.” They rode in, then Mia scanned the key card and pressed the button for the eighty-eighth floor.
The lift opened to a brightly lit foyer with tall vases filled with a cornucopia of flowers and greens — lilies, roses, orchids, and those with names she couldn’t spell, but a whiff of the blended scents energized her.
Valerie Wang’s office occupied the entire floor. The large open space showcased an eclectic collection of chairs, sofas, and chaise lounges partnered with sides and coffee tables — like a luxury hotel lounge. A collection of paintings hung on its walls with light fixtures that can rival the Museum of Modern Art.
Amanda sat on a china blue printed sofa while she waited, but before she sat down, Valerie Wang’s voice boomed behind her. “Come in here, Miss Fox.”
She lost balance and almost fell sidewards toward the glass side table, but Mia caught her arm and saved her from an impending crash through shards of broken glass.
“That was close. Thanks, Mia.” She said under her breath, and walked towards the open door to the CEO’s office, and slid a hand on her pulled back hair to fix it.
“Good morning, Miss Wang,” Amanda said when she entered.
“Good morning,” Valerie smiled at her, “how are you today, Amanda?”
“I’m… fine. Thank you.” She kept her head down.
“Make yourself, comfortable.” She gestured at her to take the couch. “The future of Aglow rests on who will be its next CEO, and it could be you…” Valerie stared at her unblinking. “If you get my vote.”
Amanda wondered if that meant they tied the votes, and the decision depended on Valerie Wang. She beamed at her but said nothing.
She sat on one end of the couch and sank in its soft velvet cushions. Being alone in a room with Valerie Wang sent chills down her spine. No matter how comfortable the seats were — these are hot seats from hell.
“You know, Aglow is my baby. I gave birth to it, and nourished it, and raised it from the ground up to the eighty-eighth floor.” She got up from her chair and walked to the bar caddy by the window. She poured some golden liquid from a crystal decanter into two glasses and handed one to Amanda.
“Do not expect me to retire as CEO and hand it to just anyone. That person needs to pass my scrutiny and admiration, Amanda. I admire you for a lot of things. You’re brilliant, hard-working, top of your class, what else is missing?” Valerie gave her a curious gaze and sat on the divan across the couch.
“I understand, Miss Wang. Any excellent leader would want their successor to take the company to new heights. What can I improve on to get your approval?” She said and took a swig to calm her nerves.
“Can you free your hair from that eternal bun on your head, please? I want to see you with your hair down.” Valerie said.
She always fixed her hair in a tight bun to look more professional. Whatever was wrong with that confused her. She pulled out a pin that held up her dark brown hair and it tumbled down in soft waves that reached below her shoulders.
“I think you should let your hair down more often.” Valerie smiled. “You remind me of my younger self, Amanda — career-oriented… headstrong… tight bun…” she laughed, “but when the company took off from its humble beginnings, I was elated, of course, but then I also noticed there remained a huge hole of emptiness unfilled. I found out financial freedom or success alone cannot fill that emptiness…” Valerie edged toward her as she toyed with her drink.
“How many times have you gone out on a date since your divorce?” she winked.
Amanda tried to comprehend the reason for that question. “I didn’t have time to go out on dates.” She laughed and remembered how the couple on the rooftop aroused her. “The company had been my life, I think I well used my time.”
Valerie leaned closer and lightly touched her cheek. “That’s what’s missing then… you lack the glow. All work and no play …”
“What do you mean? I’m perfectly happy doing what I do. Is there something wrong with my make-up?”
“Genuine beauty comes from within, Amanda. You can use all the beauty products in the world and achieve flawless supermodel skin, but only the soul can make you glow when awakened — and I mean sexual enjoyment.”
“Uh… so what are you trying to say exactly?”
“I want to see you succeed in your career without sacrificing your personal happiness, Amanda. You are a very attractive woman, don’t squander your youth on career alone — take something for yourself, you need to stop and smell the roses.
“You need to take a break, away from work. Get a new perspective in life, and most important of all… get laid.” Valerie pronounced the last word louder for impact.
She fished an envelope from her drawer and handed it to Amanda. “Heed my advice. Let your hair down and loosen up a bit, maybe pick a red lipstick and throw away the ones you’ve been using… I hate it. Dress down, and be on your way.”
Amanda took the envelope and opened it. Inside was a ticket for The Pleasure Cruise. She looked at Valerie and tried her best to look pleased.
“A five-day trip on a pleasure cruise… I don’t know what to say… thank you, I truly appreciate it.”
“It’s not just a pleasure cruise, my dear — it is The Pleasure Cruise… and don’t thank me yet. If I don’t see you glowing when you come back,” she wagged a finger at Amanda, “you’re not getting my vote. You can prove it by showing me all the gold charms you collect — those are little tokens you get from the cruise, and I think you should get at least ten of those.” Valerie chuckled.
“I’ll do my best, ma’am.” I get the glow when I get laid, ooh no!
“Listen. This is not your ordinary vacation, Amanda. The Pleasure Cruise lets their guests enjoy the freedom to pursue pleasure without judgement. It is a safe place. There, you can lie under the sun naked and no one will accuse you of obscenity. I suggest you get a bit of tan.
“Eat, drink, and be merry — fornicate all you want — so when you’re old and grey, you have delicious memories to savor, and a good story to tell…” She poured herself another glass of whiskey and reclined on the chaise looking like Liz Taylor in Cleopatra.
Valerie Wang exuded beauty like no other fifty-plus women Amanda knew. This woman can hold her ground, command respect and admiration from both men and women in and out of the company. A creature of beauty, intelligence, and power — Amanda wished she could be like her when she reached that age.
“I’ll keep that in mind, thanks.” Amanda said. Whatever it takes.
“The cruise leaves tomorrow. Alfred will pick you up at six in the morning.”
“Oh, that’s tomorrow? Okay, I must rush home after our meeting so I can pack right away.”
“I’m cancelling this afternoon’s meeting. You can go home and pack. Bring nice clothes, gowns, cocktail dresses, lingeries… relax and enjoy the kink, Amanda. You can call me Val.” She smiled and waved. “Toodles.”
Amanda walked out of Val’s office flushed and confused, but resolved not to let Valerie Wang down. She must win her vote at all costs.