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The air in the boardroom was warm, still and stuffy. Molly glanced out of the window longingly and admired the silver birch leaves fluttering in a gentle summer breeze. If only she could be out enjoying the warm sunshine, instead of stuck in this room, with twenty of her colleagues discussing…what was this meeting even about? Graphics rendering, if the PowerPoint slides being flashed up on the screen were to be believed. In order to engage her brain and prevent her eyes from slowly sliding closed, Molly sat up very straight, gave herself a mental shake and allowed her gaze to wander around the room.
Sitting opposite her, across the polished wooden table, was her great friend and ally Jules. With short, spiky hair and a wide grin that could make even the sternest Managing Director’s face crack into a brief smile, she was definitely one of those people who made work bearable. Quickly catching Molly’s line of sight, Jules cast her a fleeting grin before rolling her eyes dramatically. Moving her hand subtly up towards her ear, she made a gesture which suggested she was tightening a noose around her neck. She closed her eyes and opened her mouth slightly, as though strangulated. Molly forced herself to look away, biting the inside of her lip in a desperate attempt to hide her giggles.
Moving along the table, Molly’s amused gaze eventually came to rest on a tall, striking man with chiselled features and dark hair, whom she had never previously spoken with. Jake Hunter; the Head of I.T. Infrastructure. He had a wealth of experience in the field, a phenomenal intellect and was consequently extremely well-respected throughout the company. As though aware of her attention, Jake’s concentration was momentarily distracted from the presentation. His glance swung around to observe Molly, a slight smile still playing across her lips from her previous encounter with Jules.
As Jake’s azure-blue eyes met with hers, Molly felt her stomach swoop, as though the ground had momentarily fallen away from under her. Locked into his gaze, she was helpless, unable to do anything other than stare at Jake’s expressionless face. Holding her breath, the moment seemed to spin out for an eternity, although in reality it probably only lasted a few seconds. A heavy pulse sounded in her ears and Molly could feel the heat rising in her neck and chest. The knowledge that she was blushing made her blush further still. Surely the rest of the room would soon become aware of the utter stillness of both of their bodies and the heat coursing between them if one of them didn’t blink soon. If the tension between them could be translated into noise, there would have been a sonic boom emanating across the boardroom
‘Any questions?’ said the speaker from the far end of the room.
‘Yeah,’ said Jake’s deep voice suddenly, breaking his gaze with Molly and turning to face the front of the room, causing her to jump. ‘What calculations have been done to account for the additional server capacity required for this proposed functionality?’
Unaware of the conversation now taking place around her, Molly slumped back into her chair. She consciously exhaled a long, slow breath, grappling to regain control of her shattered emotions. What the hell just happened there? Chancing a quick look back up at Jake, he was now totally immersed in a discussion, his long fingers playing with a pen on the table in front of him. For the remainder of the meeting, Molly concentrated hard on the far from fascinating subject of graphics rendering, in a hope that it would quell her overwhelming and entirely unexpected desires.
‘We’re all going out for a drink,’ grinned Jules. ‘You’re not going to be a lightweight, are you? You are joining us?’
‘Sure. Is there an occasion?’ asked a smiling Molly, looking up at her from behind the laptop screen.
‘Like you need that kind of an excuse,’ teased Jules. ‘But yes, as it happens. Jake Hunter’s birthday. Apparently, the first round is on him! Problem?’ added Jules as she watched a frown pass momentarily across her friend’s face.
‘No,’ replied Molly, shaking her long blonde hair. ‘I suddenly thought I had something happening tonight, but I don’t.’ Jules seemed to accept this explanation, as she picked up Molly’s coat and held it out for her.
‘Come on then! Chop chop!’
‘Right,’ sighed Molly, saving her document, closing the lid of the laptop and grabbing her coat. Fastening the belt of her coat around her slender waist, she followed Jules out of the door. Molly knew she hadn’t yet got her head around what had happened in the boardroom earlier that day. Given the intensity of what had passed between them, it felt like being within a hundred meters of Jake Hunter this evening was probably a really bad idea.
Molly walked apprehensively into the packed bar, a few steps behind Jules. As she manoeuvred through a crowd of people her boss, Patrick, raised his arm to summon her over.
‘Hi,’ smiled Molly. ‘I didn’t think your wife allowed etlik escort you out on a school night.’
‘Damn cheek!’ scoffed Patrick, good-naturedly. ‘Actually, I’m making it up to her with extra gardening duties this weekend,’ he grinned. ‘Now, Jake. Do you know Molly Butler?’
With considerable trepidation, Molly swung around to find herself gazing up at the towering, athletic man whom she had last seen as she scuttled away from the boardroom, at the end of the meeting. As their eyes locked once more, a deep flush of remembered embarrassment began to permeate through Molly’s body.
‘Only by reputation,’ replied Jake, holding out his hand. ‘I’ve heard nothing but praise for how you handled the contract issues with Datasoft a few weeks ago.’ Against her better judgement, Molly took Jake’s proffered hand. Upon the initial touch of his warm, soft palm and long fingers, Molly felt a jolt of electricity pass directly down her spine, straight to her core. It was difficult to tell whether the reaction she was experiencing was one-sided, although she thought she saw Jake’s eyes momentarily widen and then crinkle at the corners.
‘Pleased to meet you properly,’ she croaked, trying her best to ignore the fact that her nipples had tightened noticeably beneath her blouse. ‘And happy birthday.’
‘Thank you, Molly,’ replied Jake, squeezing and then releasing her hand.
‘How old are you then, you young whippersnapper?’ chortled Patrick, oblivious to the undercurrent passing between them.
‘Forty-two,’ replied Jake.
‘The answer to life, the universe and everything,’ murmured Molly, as much to herself as anyone.
‘Well, that would be gratifying, wouldn’t it?’ Jake replied immediately, shooting a scorching glance towards Molly which she couldn’t fail to misinterpret.
‘I’d better go and get a drink,’ said Molly quickly, acknowledging to herself that it needed to be a very substantial one. Without daring to look back, she darted towards the bar.
Molly wasn’t quite sure where the time had gone, but it seemed to have turned very late very fast. Trying to match Jules drink for drink probably went a long way to explaining Molly’s confusion though. Only a couple of hardcore drinking colleagues remained, most of them having disappeared home to their families, hours before.
‘Great evening,’ slurred Simon, patting Jake on the back. ‘But I must be off now.’
‘Me too,’ smiled Jules, giving off surprisingly sober vibes. ‘I don’t want to miss the last train home.’
‘Good night,’ said Jake. ‘Thanks for joining me.’ As they walked out of the door, Jake swung his full attention to Molly. ‘And then there were two,’ he murmured.
‘I ought to be getting back too,’ said Molly half-heartedly, aware of how dangerous the situation could potentially be. This man seemed to have demonstrated some kind of power over her already. And her body continued to react in such a way which suggested she was keen for him to use that power again.
‘But you wouldn’t leave me all alone, on my birthday, would you?’ he said, a lazy grin playing across his lips.
‘Um. I guess not,’ breathed Molly, concentrating on the buttons of his shirt, to prevent herself from looking him directly in the eye. Part way through the evening, Jake must have removed the jacket of his suit because now she could see the delicious shape of his broad chest and well-muscled shoulders through a linen shirt.
‘Thank you, Molly,’ smiled Jake, as a bell rang behind the bar. ‘Ah, last orders. Looks like you won’t have to suffer my company for too much longer, after all. Can I get you another?’ he asked.
‘I’m good, thanks,’ murmured Molly, nodding towards her glass.
‘I’m pleased to hear it,’ replied Jake, his eyes crinkling slightly. ‘So, can I address the elephant in the room?’ he asked mildly.
‘That’s not a very nice way to refer to me,’ said Molly, her eyes twinkling. Jake burst out laughing; a deep resonating laugh which made Molly’s skin inexplicably tingle with pleasure.
‘You’re well aware I wasn’t referring to you. You are…’ Glancing down at Molly’s hourglass figure, he inhaled swiftly before continuing. ‘About as far away from being an elephant as it is possible to be.’ Molly giggled. Part of her was dying to tease him about his unique chat up line but she knew it would be totally inappropriate to do so.
‘Thank you, I think.’
‘You’re welcome,’ he replied, flashing her a grin. ‘The elephant I was referring to took place in the boardroom today.’
‘Ah,’ said Molly, her cheeks colouring as she shuffled uncomfortably in her chair.
‘I was…’ Molly felt she ought to choose her next words carefully, given Jake was a couple of grades her senior.
‘Enthralled by the subject matter? Bursting with enthusiasm to learn more? Struggling to stay awake?’ suggested Jake, his face completely deadpan.
‘Yes, definitely one of those three options,’ smiled Molly. ‘A colleague had just made etlik escort bayan me laugh. I turned my head away from her and ended up grinning at you. I apologise,’ she added.
‘Please don’t,’ murmured Jake, his voice a deep rumble. ‘You greatly improved an otherwise extremely tedious meeting.’
‘In that case, you’re very welcome,’ smiled Molly. Jake maintained eye contact with her and Molly felt her heart rate pick up as heat began to gather in her core.
‘Are you happy in your current role?’ queried Jake, the rapid change in conversation momentarily flooring her.
‘Um, yeah. I guess I’m content enough,’ Molly nodded, feeling both uncomfortable and increasingly sexy from being in the spotlight of Jake’s sole attention.
‘I’ve got a vacant role in my management team that I’m looking to fill. Would you consider it?’ asked Jake. Molly swilled the last of the liquid around her glass as a silence began to envelope them. Exhaling slowly, Molly finished her drink.
‘I’m sorry, Jake, but I can’t accept,’ explained Molly as she slowly stood up. As she did so, Jake rose beside her, a questioning look on his face.
‘I’m going to head home now,’ she added, shrugging on her coat.
‘Hang on,’ instructed Jake. ‘Is there a reason behind either your decision or your sudden need to disappear?’
‘Absolutely,’ nodded Molly. ‘But I think some things are best left unsaid.’
‘Actually, I’ve never found that to be the case,’ replied Jake evenly. ‘So, let’s hear it.’
‘It’s very simple, really,’ said Molly, slowly raising her eyes to look directly into Jake’s. ‘A long time ago, I made it a policy of mine never to work for somebody I’m strongly attracted to.’ The moment the words had left her lips, she knew she’d gone too far. As Jake’s eyes opened a little wider and he straightened slightly in surprise, Molly cursed Jules for suggesting that final round of vodka shots, straight after the round of flaming Sambucas, which had clearly lowered her defences.
‘Goodnight, Jake,’ she muttered before turning and fleeing from the bar, without a backwards glance.
Back at work the following day, Molly kept a low profile and didn’t mention her embarrassing conversation with Jake to anyone, not even Jules. By mid-morning, Molly was entirely engrossed in producing a budget report when a private instant messenger invitation flew up onto her screen. With a rush of adrenalin, she saw Jake’s name and wondered, with some trepidation, why he was initiating contact with her. Having glanced around the office first to ensure nobody was looking over her shoulder, Molly entered the conversation.
[JHunter]: You know relationships with co-workers are against company policy, don’t you?
[MButler]: I do.
[JHunter]: So, if nothing can happen, why not consider joining my team?
[MButler]: I don’t think it’s a good idea.
[JHunter]: Surely, you can handle a little sexual tension?
[MButler]: I’m sure I could handle a little sexual tension, yes. But that isn’t what we’re talking about here.
[MButler]: At least, not for me anyway.
[JHunter]: OK. Fair point. For me neither.
[MButler]: Thank you.
[JHunter]: I feel it only fair to warn you though. Confidentially. There are noises about a restructure and ultimately, we may not get a choice.
[JHunter has left the conversation]
Molly was walking leisurely along the riverbank on her way back from the shops to collect her car. The Canadian geese honked noisily from the water, as children ran past shouting. Having left work less than an hour earlier, Molly had done well to quickly dash around the stores she needed to visit before they closed. Not only had she picked up a pretty pair of half-price sandals but she’d also managed to find a birthday card and present for her mum, who she found notoriously difficult to buy for.
Switching her shopping bags into her left hand to give her right hand a rest, Molly was suddenly aware of an object passing right beside her at great speed. Before she knew it, she had been thrown to the floor by the force of a cyclist speeding past, knocking her body flat to the floor.
‘Oi!’ shouted an angry man’s voice, as Molly lay on the tarmac, hands outstretched, trying to understand why she was suddenly sprawled on the tarmac.
‘Little shit! Are you OK sweetheart?’ Molly was aware of her scattered shopping bags being picked up from around where she lay. Looking up, Molly found herself looking into a pair of familiar, wickedly attractive eyes.
‘Jake?’ she asked, struggling to register what was happening.
‘Hey Molly,’ he said gently. ‘Are you hurt?’
‘I don’t think so,’ she replied, although, upon looking at her bare legs, she could see blood running from her knee. Having picked up all of her shopping, Jake bent down.
‘Come on. Let’s get you up,’ he murmured. ‘Put your arm around my shoulder, and we’ll head for that park bench over there, OK?’
‘OK,’ escort etlik she breathed, as Jake leant in and sensory overload took over. Press up against his hard, muscled body, Jake took the majority of Molly’s weight as she hobbled across the path on her painful leg. There was no doubt her body was shaking but whether that was from the effects of Jake’s proximity or from being knocked over, she wasn’t entirely sure. What she was sure about, however, was that Jake smelt divine. By the time they had reached the bench, Molly had identified an expensive lemon tang which she put down to his aftershave, the hint of a washing powder on his clothes quite different to the one she used, and an indescribably sexy masculine aroma, which she assumed was simply his natural scent.
‘That’s it,’ said Jake softly. ‘Sit down here and then we’ll fix you up.’ Molly sat down heavily on the wooden bench and looked up at him, towering above her. As her befuddled brain cleared, it became obvious why she hadn’t immediately recognised him. Jake was wearing a T-shirt, shorts and trainers; Molly had only ever seen him entirely concealed by his suit before today. Jake shrugged a small rucksack off his back whilst Molly looked down at his rock-hard, hairy calves and well-muscled knees. Unhelpfully, she felt her stomach roll over with the force of her attraction to him.
‘Lucky I’m always prepared,’ smiled Jake, as he removed a first aid kit from his rucksack and began to unwrap an antiseptic wipe. ‘Shall I sort this out for you?’ he asked, nodding towards Molly’s knee, still running with blood.
‘Um…OK,’ said Molly. Looking down at her rounded knees, the lace hem of her sundress laying just above them, she watched in fascination as Jake dabbed at her wound with infinite care. Once he had used one wipe, he continued with a second and the bleeding was eventually stemmed.
‘We’ll just let that dry for a moment,’ said Jake, discarding the wipes in a nearby bin. ‘And then you can have a plaster on it.’
‘Thank you,’ breathed Molly, gazing up at him. ‘You’ve been running?’ she queried in a desperate attempt to make some kind of conversation. The alternative was that she just continued to stare adoringly up at him and she’d probably done quite enough of that already.
‘Not yet,’ smiled Jake. ‘I’m just waiting for my running partner. Which reminds me…’ Jake grabbed his phone from his pocket and typed a quick text.
‘Don’t let me delay you,’ said Molly quickly. ‘I’ll be fine now, thank you.’
‘I’m sure you will, but I’d prefer to see you safely back to your car. Don’t worry, Zach will be grateful that you’ve deferred the inevitable pain we are just about to put ourselves through.’
‘Or the inevitable pleasure,’ said Molly, wishing she hadn’t said it, the moment she’d opened her mouth.
‘Oh?’ he smiled questioningly.
‘I mean…when I go running, I always feel good when I’ve finished. All those endorphins flying around my body and a sense of satisfaction. It’s a natural high.’
‘So, you run too then?’ he enquired.
‘Yes, just cross-country and certainly not at any great speed. I usually go out really early in the mornings when nobody else is about. It’s the best time of day. I love the solitude. Just the owls and moonlight to accompany me.’
‘Sounds perfect,’ smiled Jake. He paused thoughtfully before continuing. ‘They say there’s a thin line between pleasure and pain but I’ve never found that to be the case.’ Not knowing how to respond, Molly sat gazing up at him, her pulse racing frantically within her body. ‘Are you ready for the plaster now?’ asked Jake.
‘Yes,’ croaked Molly. ‘Thank you.’ As though looking down on the scene from another dimension, Molly watched as Jake unpackaged the plaster and dropped down to his knees. He then very carefully lined it up over her knee, sealed the plaster down onto her skin and ran both thumbs tenderly over the adhesive sections to fix it in place. Molly felt no pain. In fact, all she felt was pleasure, particularly when he looked up into her eyes. A moment of electricity passed between them, as it had previously done in the board room, as their eyes drank each other in. The moment was in danger of continuing indefinitely when Jake blinked his eyes, once, twice, and then his line of sight slid away. Removing his hands from her knee, he stood up. Picking up Molly’s shopping, Jake held out his arm to offer support.
‘Let me accompany you to your car.’
‘Thank you,’ said a flushed Molly, grabbing hold of his warm skin and hobbling beside him.
‘We ought to report that little bastard who ran into you and then just cycled off,’ said Jake, a quilt of muscles in his jawline revealing his anger.
‘No harm done,’ sighed Molly. ‘Well, not much anyway. My car’s just there,’ she added, opening it remotely with her set of keys.
‘Hey Jake. Everything alright?’ asked a deep voice behind them.
‘Yeah, some tosspot on a bike knocked Molly here to the floor,’ replied Jake as they turned to face the newcomer. Molly took in the sight of a man of a similar height and build to Jake, almost, but not quite as attractive. ‘Molly, this is Zach. Zach…Molly,’ said Jake.
‘Nice to meet you Molly,’ smiled Zach.
‘You too,’ she grinned. ‘Sorry if I’ve delayed your run.’
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