Inspired by Broken - Noelle Johnson
Eyes as cold as steel yet burning with undeniable heat.
The way they devoured me from a distance made my skin crawl. And yet, the feeling those heated gazes elicited was gratifying, and worst of all, craved.
I forgot what it was like to be wanted with such intensity that made the heart palpitate dangerously close to bursting. That made the swarm of butterflies turn feral as they fought to break through the debris they were buried under all those years ago.
As I moved around the office, making sure his stares weren’t too distracting from meeting the deadline, I became too aware of every change, no matter how big or small, my body went through after giving birth to three beautiful children.
I automatically sucked in my tummy so it looked somewhat flatter than it was in reality, and straightened my shoulders as I concentrated on not falling face first in these heels and the pencil skirt I was wearing. My hand went to my unflatteringly dull brown locks, sitting rebelliously on top of my head as I sat down at my desk. I made sure my posture was picture perfect as I tried to regain semblance and chase the colour from my face by thinking of anything that would kill these embers heating my cheeks.
But the awareness of someone’s unabashed attention on my blouse, which was too tight suddenly, made me glance up from the paperwork in front of me. I didn’t expect to find his unflinching gaze still on me, nevertheless, the heat I victoriously subdued a second ago, returned tenfold.
What was it about today of all days that he decided to pay me any attention? But most importantly, why me? There were tens of other women who were younger and more beautiful, with a body not scarred from pregnancy and childbirth. With a firm ass and a perfect C cup, ready to bend to his will.
And then there was me. Hitting almost forty, with three children and a husband who looked for pleasure elsewhere rather than with the one he vowed himself to. With stretch marks and an extra layer of stubborn fat that didn’t seem willing to part with me. Never having time to go to the hairdressers or take a bath in peace, let alone relax for just a damn minute.
Yet, he seemed to be determined to keep his penetrating interest known by never taking his eyes off me. Luck was also on my side as my desk was directly opposite his office and he had an open-door policy in place.
Tristan Hayes, the very definition of forbidden fruit and sin for unhappily married housewives such as myself. His presence stirred up quite a turmoil when he showed up one day and became regional manager of the company. Everyone expected the obvious choice, Sean Kinsella, to take the position since it was pretty much promised to him. But when Tristan’s name left the boss’ mouth at the meeting a couple of months ago, it didn’t go down well. However, most of the people, meaning the female population of Stratton Recruitment, changed their minds about Tristan Hayes as soon as he stepped foot on the premises.
He had that rugged, torturous look about him. With eyes full of emotions and roguishness emanating from his stance alone, he became the object of unsurmountable desires. Me included. I wasn’t immune to the invisible tendrils of manliness he tried to wrap around every woman he looked at. I just didn’t think he even noticed me, as most of the women working here were single and in much better shape physically than myself. They would’ve been the better choice, rather than my clumsy and more often than not awkward self.
But despite it all, he persisted. I caught him countless times throughout the day, as he shamelessly stared and perused as if I were something he’d consider buying on a market. I, of course, said nothing. I might have called him out on his blatant behaviour before, but being married taught me, or better yet, instilled in me, to be submissive. To be cautious about when I opened my mouth and what came out of it. So, I kept it shut.
This went on, day after day, and each time he looked more and more expectant for me to say something. But I stayed quiet. Because even though I was married, I was a woman full of insecurities and doubts that his attention alone diminished slowly, making me see clearer when it came to my body, at least. His interest, despite knowing deep down that it would only be a physical need I’d be fulfilling, made me more self-assured, and it fed my starved confidence.
“Laura, I’ll be at the archives if anyone is looking for me. Buzz me if it’s urgent,” I said as I stood from my desk.
“Got it, Neve.” Laura didn’t even look up from her pile of folders as I walked past her desk.
I couldn’t help the subtle peek I sent towards Tristan’s office and no surprise when I locked gazes with his piercing grey orbs. I felt the blush spread over my fair skin. If someone looked at me, they would think I ran a marathon at this point–red as a beet and breathless.
By the time I made it to the underground offices used as archives, my blush felt under control. However, my heart refused to slow down. As I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, a giggle tore through the silent and dark space before me. Felt like a damn teenager!
As I made my way to the switch, a raspy voice stopped me in my tracks. “Leave it off!”
I whipped around, but the only thing I could see was a black shadow of a figure stalking closer to me, reminding me of predators trying to sneak up on their prey. I stood there hypnotised, with the wild beats of my heart echoing in my ears. Cold sweat broke out on my forehead as the fine hairs on my neck rose as if on command. My breath quickened, and I used every muscle in my body to stifle a whimper. I could feel the flight responses kick in, but seeing as the only way out of here was blocked by the bulky figure, I took a few steps backwards. My back hit the wall and, at the same time, I reached blindly for the switch. But before I could shed some light on this mysterious man ready to pounce, he stopped just a hairbreadth away from me and gently pulled my hand away from the wall.
“I said leave it off, Mrs Taylor!”
There was only one man who called me Mrs Taylor with access to the premises, but that couldn’t be. He wouldn’t…
“It’s very hard to get you alone, so forgive me for taking the liberty of following you down here as soon as the opportunity arose.”
He was still holding my wrist, and I felt his thumb caressing my pulse point with a gentleness I didn’t feel for a long time. I should push him away and run for the hills, but his proximity was like numbing venom. His heady scent was like a beacon to my longings—heat pooled in my core, spread like wildfire throughout my whole being. His barely there touch, his closeness and his emanating heat were like droplets of rain to a withered plant. I wanted to drown in him and everything he offered.
The darkness and the silence-bars my rapid breathing- felt like a forbidden place I wasn’t meant to visit. I felt Tristan lean closer as if he was going for a kiss and all my functions stopped at once. I ceased to breathe and to think as the tension his nearness evoked tugged my body everyplace. He touched his nose to my cheek and inhaled as he drifted to my ear.
“Cat got your tongue, Guinevere?” His hoarse whisper sent a quiver on the loose down to my toes, and back up my spine.
But his alluring voice and his presence, as stimulating as it was, were like a bucket of cold water. The scent of a mysterious blend of sensual wood and fresh notes of bergamot invaded my nose, reminding me that this man wasn’t the man I pledged my loyalty to. No. This was a man who dared to follow his passions and carved his own path. And the terrifying thought of being only an inconsequential speck in his life awoke me from my stupefied state. No, I didn’t want a fairytale worthy love story, but I always told myself that I at least wanted to matter. And being someone who only warmed someone’s bed wasn’t the notion I wanted to follow.
“Mr... Mr Hayes, what are you doing?” I tried to push him away, but the moment I placed both hands on his chest and felt the manliness and pure power of this fine specimen, my intention broke down.
“I know I might come across as too strong and demanding, but I have a feeling if I let you decide on certain things, you would deny yourself even the tiniest thing that might bring you any pleasure.” Tristan placed his hands over my fingers, which held onto his suit as if my life depended on it. “If you haven’t figured it out by now, Guinevere, I want you!”
No, Guinevere, what are you doing? This is wrong!
I shook my head in protest as I tried to gather my wits about this predicament I found myself in, but his warm and skilful hands cupped my cheeks as he placed his forehead against mine. “Don’t say anything now, please! I know this might be sudden and unexpected, but I... I just—shit! This is harder than I expected!”
His warm and hastened breaths fused with my panting and the feeling of being the object of someone’s desire, being yearned for despite my imperfections, were like matchsticks striking kindling doused in kerosene. The flames didn’t just begin to flicker loosely; they ignited with such ferocity I was terrified they would destroy everything in their wake. The intensity of this ember reawakened would burn the entire world down if it could.
“No, Pixie, don’t say anything. All I’m asking is that you think this through before you reject the idea of us-this happening-altogether. Can you do that?”
A resolute no was on the tip of my tongue, but despite what my brain wanted, my head nodded in agreement with his request. Because even though I knew of my husband’s treacherous ways, I didn’t want to become like him. Even though the promise he made to be faithful meant nothing to him, I wasn’t raised to break my word of honour. But maybe my subconscious knew better and I let that be.
“I think I better go before I do something I imagined doing countless times before... because you deserve more than a dark corner in a forgotten room, Pixie,” he whispered and pressed a gentle kiss on my temple. His body felt tense, as if the strings of his self-control he so carefully protected were near snapping. I heard a low groan from the back of his throat and he finally stepped backwards.
Tristan’s retreating figure, his signature scent still tickling my senses and the heap he left me in, were the only reminders that that just happened! But before he fully disappeared from my sight, he paused and his voice thrummed through an invisible tether straight to my core as he said, “And, Pixie, you’re allowed to put yourself first sometimes.”
Then he disappeared, as if his presence was nothing but the figment of my imagination.