This book is set in London; I wasn’t sure whether my subsequent stories would be located somewhere else. But readers seem to like the idea of Americans working in London – and there are plenty of them, believe me! – and, although there aren’t too many American characters in this book, there are plenty in other subsequent titles…
Barbara Edwards goes for an interview for a position at a prestigious law firm, and finds herself face-to-face with her former lover. How can she win him back? Complications arise when her former boss seduces her and gives her the best sex she's had in years. What's a girl to do? Is a man in the hand worth two in the bush? Or should she take a wild risk to manipulate her first love into returning to her? And how can she do it without hurting anyone?
Here's the first chapter. Please note that the paragraphs here are double-spaced; I'm fussy, and I don't like that format but it's out of my control in this blog. Grrr! When you read this in any ebook format, the text is formatted so that paragraphs are single-spaced, as I had originally designed.
Interview For Love
by Rachel Cray
Copyright 2011 Rachel Cray
“Hello. I’m Barbara Edwards, and I’m here to see Mr. Andrews. We have a meeting scheduled for 6 p.m.”
I had walked confidently into the reception area, deserted except for a pretty clerk, half-hidden behind an array of shelving on her long desk. I guessed she was wearing the law firm’s standard uniform for receptionists, a dark blue nondescript cotton dress; probably in her early 30s, and wearing a headphone and microphone, she looked at her monitor and smiled back at me.
“Yes, Ms. Edwards. You’re expected. I’ll just ring him to let him know that you’re here. Would you like to take a seat?”
“Thank you.” I sat in an armchair and watched the receptionist pressing some buttons on her console.
“I have Barbara Edwards in Reception for you,” she announced, and paused. “Very good. I’ll tell her.” She turned to me and smiled again. “He’ll only be a couple of moments.”
I looked round, soaking in the ambience of the place; I particularly liked the fine oak panelling and the royal blue upholstery of the plush seating. Evans and Carlisle had a very good reputation in the international legal community, and I would love to work here. My skills as a legal secretary had been honed at one of their smaller competitors, and a situation here could be seen as a logical progression in my career path. Obviously the Reception area was designed to give visitors a good impression, especially to clients; the standard of decor in the offices behind this facade could be entirely different. I turned my head to peer through an open door in the far corner, leading to what could be a conference room.
“Barbara! How lovely to see you again!”
I turned to face Mr. Andrews, a dark-haired 30 year-old who stood smiling in front of me; his whole aura oozed a warm, professional charm, and I was astounded to see this gorgeous face from my past suddenly reappear in my life.
“Peter –” I gasped. I struggled for words when I realised I was being prematurely familiar with a potential employer. I rose to my feet and mechanically shook his proffered hand.
“Come through to my office – this way.”
Feeling a little bewildered, I stepped in the direction he indicated, down a short corridor, and soon found myself sitting in his office; although it looked businesslike, the furnishings still reflected something of the grandeur of the reception area. Still reeling from surprise, I waited for him to begin.
“So you’ve come about the secretarial position.” He sat down behind his desk.
“Yes. But I had no idea that the Mr. Andrews I’d be seeing would be you.”
He grinned. “I had the advantage there, being able to read your resume. And when I noticed you graduated at Nottingham University, I just knew it had to be you and I wanted to see you again.” He chuckled. “Five years is a long time. And we’ve got a lot to talk about. But first, let’s get down to business. I don’t want you to think that I dragged you in here under false pretences. There is an opening here, and you certainly seem well-qualified to fill it. So let’s do the interview and then we can catch up with each other. Is that O.K.?”
“My standard interviews last around 40 minutes,” he began. “First, I tell candidates about the firm. Then they tell me about themselves. Then I go into more detail about the job they’ll be doing here, the benefits, and so on, and then you get the chance to tell me why you are the right person to fill the vacancy. Finally, we round off with any other questions you might have. I rather suspect that we just might take a little less than 40 minutes this time. All right? So let’s get started....”
* * *
I had already prepared for the interview and had most of my answers ready. Peter Andrews had not presented me with any surprises; he asked me fewer questions about myself than I expected – since we were already acquainted – and, within 30 minutes, it seemed as if everything was drawing to a conclusion.
“How soon can you start?” he asked.
“Does that mean –”
“Yes, you’ve got the job. If you still want it, that is. And provided you can give us the commitment. Remember that I told you we sometimes have to work crazy hours here when the pressure is on – 70 or 80 hours a week – but mercifully not every week. Much the same demands as your present employers are making on you, I daresay.”
I heard myself sigh with relief. “Thank you! But won’t there be a second interview?”
“No. Only if I needed a second opinion. But this time, I don’t. So... are you tied to a notice period with your present firm?”
“One month normally. But I expect you’ve heard that they’re presently going through a difficult patch and they might be prepared to release me sooner if you wanted.”
“Yes, that would be good. Let me know when you’ve spoken to them. Here’s my card.”
He handed me a business card, which I put away in my handbag.
“Now I did say my interviews last 40 minutes and, by my reckoning, we’ve still got ten minutes left.” He stood up and walked across to sit in an armchair on the other side of his desk, so there were no barriers standing between us.
I turned my chair slightly to face him.
“I seem to remember that you stood me up after we’d been going out for seven months. No message, no explanation. Your exams were finished, and you went home a couple of days later. I never saw you again. You didn’t return my phone calls, and you never replied to my letters or emails. And I thought our relationship was going places.”
Throughout my meticulous preparation for the interview, I hadn’t prepared myself to answer this question. Indeed, I hadn’t expected to be interviewed by a former lover.
“Or had I misread all the signals?” He was pressing me now.
“No. You know we were close. And I wanted us to get even closer. Truly, I did. But I got cold feet.” I looked anxiously around the office as I struggled for words to explain. “I was just 21, remember. I was terrified that everything was going too fast. I’m not sure whether you’ll remember my telling you about a relationship I’d had when I was 18. He let me down very badly. If you want the truth, I had fallen in love with you, and I didn’t want to risk losing you. But something even worse for me was the fear of going through all the pain of a breakup again, in case things didn’t work out between us. So I panicked; it was easier for me to run away from you. I’d suddenly lost all my self-esteem. I know it sounds crazy now, but I was younger then, remember, and my brain was all mixed up.”
He nodded thoughtfully. “And have you found anyone else since?”
“No. There’s been nobody. I’ve immersed myself in work, making a pile of money. And that’s what I was hoping to continue doing, working here.”
“Perhaps this isn’t the place to continue this conversation,” he smiled. “I’m just about done here, so may I take you for a drink down the road? Just for old time’s sake?”
“I’m not sure...”
“No strings attached. I promise. Just two old friends together, talking about old times. And, if you’re interested, I can tell you what’s happened to me since I left university too.”
“All right, then. But I can’t stay too long. I have an early start tomorrow morning - my firm has a client flying in for an early breakfast meeting and I’ll be very busy.”
“Good. I’ll walk you back to our Reception. I won’t keep you more than a couple of minutes while I lock up here. There’s a cosy bar down the road where we can talk.”
I sat in the same chair that I had used when I first arrived, but I now felt so much more relaxed; I had secured my new job. But there was a new and unexpected hurdle facing me: Peter might want to ask me some soul-searching questions about our former relationship – questions that I had never even asked myself – and I was unsure whether I could answer them. The receptionist was still there, typing at her desk and quite oblivious to my return.
True to his word, he came along quickly and took me out for the drink.
* * *
When we entered the bar, Peter chose a table at the far end of the room; the lighting was dimmed, and soft, slow music was playing in the background. This seemed an ideal place to come and unwind after a hectic day before going home. I asked for a dry white wine, and he soon appeared with two full glasses.
“Cheers!” he smiled, and we clashed our glasses gently together.
“So what happened to you after university?” I asked after I had taken a sip.
“I got my Masters’ degree and, just a few weeks after you left, I was offered this post. And I’ve been here ever since.”
“You were doing International Business, I seem to remember?”
“Yes, that’s right. And you got yourself a BA in History, didn’t you?”
“Much good that it did me,” I smiled. “Landing me a job as a humble legal secretary.”
“But the world needs legal secretaries! And we have one legal secretary working here who is a fully qualified civil engineer, for instance. Yes, the world needs civil engineers too, but the lady we have says she’s more satisfied doing this job than designing bridges. And I’m all in favour of people enjoying their work.”
“And you obviously enjoy what you do too.”
“Well, I’ve been able to immerse myself in work, just like you. Maybe for the same reason.” He raised his eyebrows, anticipating my reaction.
“You think we’ve both been working to forget each other?” I asked. “Or, at least, to drown any feelings of regret about breaking up?”
He chuckled. “I wonder which psychology books you’ve been reading?”
“For what it’s worth,” I continued, “I did really regret breaking up with you. But I couldn’t bring myself to write to you to explain. I couldn’t put it into words. When I spoke about it in your office a few moments ago, it all tumbled out of my brain incoherently. I knew I’d hurt you, but I didn’t want to prolong the pain with lengthy exchanges of long-distance correspondence.”
He nodded thoughtfully. “We’ll be seeing each other every day when you start working here. How do you feel about that?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “It wouldn’t bother me. And obviously you’re relaxed about it, otherwise you wouldn’t have offered me the job.”
We continued reminiscing about our time together at Nottingham University, and stayed for a second drink. The more animated our conversation became, the more I found herself looking forward to the prospect of being near Peter again, even though there was no thought of resuming our relationship.
The time came for me to leave; he walked me to the station and, in parting, shook my hand with the same distant professionalism. He walked off, and I boarded my train home.
* * *
When I arrived home at my flat, I began to prepare dinner and, while waiting for it to cook, I turned on the television. It was too early for the ten o’clock news broadcast, and nothing attracted my attention on any of the main channels, so I turned it off again. I reached for an old photograph album on the shelf of a bookcase, and put it on the coffee table. After dinner, I decided, I would explore my old memories of the months I had together with Peter.
I ate somewhat mechanically, hardly able to wait to get it finished so that I could delve into my photograph album. When I had finished, I put the plate in the kitchen sink, rinsed it, and sat on the sofa to look at the pictures.
The memories quickly came in a flood. Peter looked younger, certainly, but he still retained that self-assured maturity that had attracted me to him in the first place. I pored over the scenes, trying to remember the occasions on which the photographs had been taken; in one, we were dressed for dinner together - he in black tie, I in a long flowing evening dress - where was that? And when? In another, he posed on the beach in his swimming trunks, smiling at the camera; I had not previously noticed his semi-erect penis and bulging testicles under his close-fitting attire.
My mind turned to the times when we had made love together in his bed. He had been such a kind, understanding and patient lover, but all I had left now were memories of the intense pleasures we had shared - not only his absorbing, intellectual conversation, but the most exquisite orgasms he had given me. He had treated me as an equal in all things.
And now there was so little that remained of him in my life. True, I was going to re-enter a world where he occupied centre stage, and in a strange, new capacity, but it would never be the same again. All that I had in front of me as a memory of his closeness was these photographs.
I felt a sudden twitch between my legs. It was as if the photograph of Peter on the beach had stimulated a primitive desire within. I felt my crotch; my sex had lubricated itself quite unexpectedly.
I looked at his picture again. His private parts appeared about to explode. I began to rub myself, and felt ashamed. I had not masturbated for years, it seemed, and now - out of the blue - I felt the urge for a climax. My selfish, inner being demanded it. Right now.
I rubbed harder this time. Furiously, with my middle finger. And then with two fingers, and they slid into my vagina. I pulled my panties to one side so that my fingers would be in direct contact with my sex.
I remembered how Peter had done this to me. We had stood against the doorway in his room when he had first entertained me there. In the middle of a violent kiss, he had put his tongue deep into my mouth, and I had willingly given way to him; he had then put his hand up my skirt - and I had not resisted. Reaching the top of my thigh, his fingers had found their way through one leg of my panties and had caressed my damp public hair before descending into my secret crevice and discovering my clit, stiffening with an urgent desire for him to take me.
I had felt his erection pressing against my thigh, and had pressed my hand against it, and round its thickness, through his trousers, encouraging it to grow even bigger and to harden into steel. It would not be denied its fulfilment, I had promised myself.
Then Peter had got on his knees and pulled my panties down; holding up my skirt, his head had reached forward and begun to give me oral sex. Nobody had ever done this to me before; of course, I had fantasised about it, but it had brought a new private delight to me and I had no desire for it to stop.
But this had not been the only “first” for me, I remembered now. When I climaxed - in the doorway, before we had reached his bed - I had actually ejaculated. My very first time. And I had felt totally bewildered and embarassed, but Peter had been very kind and understanding about it.
I could not continue this reverie here on the sofa. I needed to go somewhere more comfortable, and decided to go to the bedroom, where I immediately pulled down my panties and, laying on the bed with a pillow between my thighs, began to writhe. I put one corner of the pillow inside my moist vagina, and rubbed the side of the pillow against my clitoris. It was as if he, Peter, had re-entered into my body once more. I longed to have him, to hold him, to explore his body, to share his innermost thoughts and, most of all, to share his life again.
In my mind, Peter was thrusting into me; I wished I could have stretched my arm between my legs to cup his testicles. I used to run two fingers gently over his balls while we were making love - that made him climax so much faster, he said. But he always held back for me to come first.
And I was not going to take long now, I thought. I was nearly there. I pushed harder and harder against the pillow and then... the excitement reached its peak, I felt a gush of joy overwhelm me, and I collapsed on my back on the bed. I had forgotten what it had been like. Sidestepping all approaches from potential suitors, and deliberately avoiding any temptations to pleasure myself, I had never bothered with the Pill or purchased a vibrator. All thoughts of sex had been banished from my mind ever since Peter left my life.
And now he was returning into my world. But that return did not signify that we were taking up the strands of the relationship where we had left off.
Or did it? He, too, had not taken a lover since we parted.
Surely this was some kind of sign?
I do hope you enjoyed that!
email: rc (at) rachelcray (dot) com