This was my entry for the Control, Possess, Seduce competition. I was absolutely thrilled when it won 1st place in the public vote and also was Lolypop82's Graphic Designer choice. Thank you to everyone who reviewed the original OS and voted for me. As a new and inexperienced writer you can't imagine how amazed and humbled I was to read your kind words. The story was whipped into shape for the contest by Robfansteinpire and Alice's White Rabbit who helped me to stop being too British and to work out exactly where I do and don't need commas.
I was also thrilled when the wonderfully talented Jennifer Jennings made me a lovely banner. Thank you so much.
Summary: Bella lives for her morning elevator ride, and the sexy stranger she shares it with, but what will happen one night when she works late?
No copyright infringement is intended.
"Fuck!" I scream at the departing back of the bus. I've arrived at the bus stop, panting and sweaty, just as it pulls out. I yelled, I ran—something I never do, especially not in these heels—but it wasn't enough. It left without me.
Rationally, I know this isn't a big deal. Another will be along in twelve minutes. I won't be late for work. I always arrive early, usually being the first in our department.
But it means I will miss him. Over the past few weeks that I've been working at Cullen Masen Holdings I've got arriving at the same time as him down to a fine art. I soon learned he was a very punctual, predictable person. If I'm standing outside elevator three at precisely 8:07, I am almost guaranteed to share my ride up to the 21st floor with him. I say with him. He stands there sending messages or talking on his phone, and I stand there trying to watch him out the corner of my eye.
But today, I'm going to be late. By twelve minutes. Even if I run from the bus stop to the CMH building, I'll only be able to make up two to three minutes at most.
The next bus arrives, a full two minutes late. I climb on, my shoulders slumped. My morning elevator ride is the highlight of my day. My job at CMH is not what you would call action-packed and exciting. But it's a job, and a well-paying one with prospects. I know I'm currently on the lowest rung of the ladder, so data crunching for projects I know nothing about is the best I can hope for, but in the future, I fully anticipate leading some of these projects that so desperately need my numbers.
I get off the bus, and I decide there is no point in rushing. Fourteen minutes late may as well be ninety. Make that seventeen now. It seems there is slightly heavier traffic with the somewhat later start making the bus journey take that little bit longer. I've missed him. He's never late. Certainly not by seventeen minutes.
Habit still leads me to wait outside elevator three. It's currently at the basement level, collecting those workers who arrive by car and are lucky enough to have a space in the underground parking lot. Like he does. My head is down, and I'm being jostled a little. The reception area is certainly busier at this time.
I look up as the familiar ping alerts me to the arrival of the elevator and straight into the greenest eyes I've ever seen. His eyes. They lock briefly with mine before darting back to his ever present cell phone. I'm momentarily stunned. Not only is he here, even though I am, I glance at my watch, 18 minutes late now. But he almost registered my existence. This is monumental. I don't have long to contemplate this development before I'm pushed, rather unceremoniously, forward by the multitude of eager workers behind me. I end up standing right in front of him. I can almost feel the heat of his body behind me. His now familiar scent wafts forward before being overpowered by the body odor of the overweight, nylon-wearing, balding man in front of me. I lean back slightly to get away from BO man, until I feel a slight resistance. Shit, I mustn't rub up against him. That would be highly inappropriate.
The already packed elevator stops at the second floor, and there are another three people waiting to get on. And no one gets off. We are all pushed farther back to make room. Now I really am inappropriately close to him. I can feel his chest rise and fall. His breath is making my hair move at the top of my head. I can hear the click of his phone as he continues to message whomever is on the other end. I think about those fingers, so long and agile, and my own breathing picks up. I imagine his breath against my neck, his chest pushed against mine as those fingers go to work on me.
The door closes and the elevator jerks suddenly as it starts to move. The man with personal hygiene issues jostles back into me, and I start to fall sideways, but a strong hand grasps me, pulling me back upright and back against his chest. Is it my imagination or has his breathing picked up also? We are so close, and his hand is still gripping my waist. He's making no move to let me go, even though I'm now stable. He's still tapping away on his phone with his other hand. What can be so important? I shift slightly, making sure I have a firm footing, and I hear and feel him take in a sharp breath. Then I feel it. Hard against my lower back. Fuck me. The things I could do with that. My thighs rub together, and my ass moves without me giving it any conscious thought, pushing back against him and rubbing. His fingers pause briefly on his keypad. He seems to be as affected by this as I am.
The elevator stops again, letting some off, including BO man in front of me, and only one additional passenger embarks. There is now slightly more room, but I make no effort to move forward, away from the warmth of his body.
Then he gets bolder, obviously finding my actions an invitation to take things further. The hand on my waist loosens its grip, and the long fingers spread out, stretching around toward my stomach. Then I feel them start to move down, over my hip, down to my thigh. I'm wearing my shit-hot little black skirt today. The one I know hugs my ass and ends just long enough to be work appropriate. Now I realize it is just short enough for his fingers to explore my legs below the hem.
He caresses my skin, sending shivers up my body. I find myself leaning back against him more, my hips moving slightly from side to side. Then his thumb rubs up under the hem of my skirt at the back. I ache for him to move his hand higher. To explore more of what is waiting for him under my skirt, at the apex of my thighs. I'm hungry for him. I want more. I need more.
He is just reaching the prize, his thumb discovering, through the thin material of my underwear, just how wet I am for him, when the elevator stops again, and I realize, almost too late, that this is my floor. As the ping sounds, his hand disappears. Does he know my floor? I hear him clear his throat, and I realize I need to move. I have to get off. I leap forward suddenly, pushing my way forward. As I exit the doors, I glance back as they close and, once again, piercing green eyes meet mine, full of lust and desire, before they are lost, and I find myself looking at my own lust-filled expression in the elevator's mirrored doors.
Shit, what was that? I shake my head to clear it. Did I really just let him grope me in the elevator while I rubbed my ass up against him? This has been a fantasy of mine since I saw him on my first morning. Well, maybe not exactly that, but I've certainly entertained many different scenarios involving his long fingers and what lies under my skirt. I also won't deny I've woken up many times from dreams that involved him and me in that elevator, but I'm not the sort of person to do that in real life. I don't even know his name. All I know about him is he works for the same company as me. On a higher floor. Most of what's above us is marketing and then the executive floors. I imagine him putting together marketing campaigns, meeting with creatives, making decisions, and managing teams.
I shake my head and turn around to make my way to my cubicle. I have a busy day ahead of me. Yesterday, while crunching some numbers for a recent merger, I came across a few discrepancies I need to bring to my boss Victoria's attention. I'm hoping it's nothing serious. I've probably just dropped a number somewhere, or failed to account for something, but I was struggling to find my error yesterday, and I need to bring her more experienced head into this.
I'd sent her the file in question yesterday, and I hope she's had a chance to look at it. We have a meeting set up for ten, and before I go in, I decide to look at a few other files for other recent projects.
As I work, I find myself frequently distracted by daydreams that take this morning's elevator ride further. The things I imagine that man's fingers, and tongue, and other body parts, doing to me would make a porn star blush. Despite this, by the time of my meeting, I've pulled together and cross-referenced several projects, and something is starting to look off. The discrepancies are small and could easily be missed, but when you look across a number of projects, they start to add up. I'm beginning to wonder if I've stumbled across something.
"Come in, Bella," Victoria warmly greats me, her wavy red hair cascading over her shoulders. "How can I help you?"
I've found Victoria really friendly and helpful since starting at CMH. She has shown me the ropes, guiding me though the office politics at the same time as she guided me though the computer systems. "Did you get a chance to look at the files I sent you on the MacFergerson merger?"
She gives me a sheepish, guilty look. "Sorry, Bella. I've been snowed under. Could you take me through it now?"
I smile. I'd not really expected her to read it all and take it all in, and I'm more than happy to talk her through my findings. I open up the file on my laptop, and she moves around her desk to look over my shoulder as I bring up spreadsheets of numbers.
"That's funny," I say, "I'm sure that number was smaller yesterday. I added it to the raw profit data, and I got a number that didn't match this one on the project file." I bring up another document. However, today, the numbers seem to match perfectly. Strange.
"I'm sorry, Victoria. The numbers seem to add up today." I'm apologetic. I obviously made a mistake.
"That's not a problem, Bella. Sometimes, when you look at these numbers too long, you start to see things that aren't there. It happens to us all. I'd rather you alerted me to these things than worry about them."
She smiles at me, alleviating some of my embarrassment. I'd gone over the numbers yesterday until my head spun, and I can't believe I got it wrong, but I really should have rechecked the numbers in the cold light of day before bringing them to her. Then I remember the other files I've been looking at. This one may have been a mistake, but the bigger picture is still there. I know there is something wrong, even if I'm not sure what it is yet.
I start to tell Victoria about what I've been looking at. She indulges me for a while but then starts to look at her watch.
"I'm sorry, Bella, but I have a meeting with James." James is her boss, the head of our department. "Look, I'm sure this is nothing, but I promise I'll take a look at it. In the meantime, Mike Newton from Mergers has been onto me. Apparently, he needs you to have these numbers finished, like yesterday, and now that we've cleared up this issue, I really need you to get them to him as soon as possible. Then we have the Elliot project for Jessica Stanley. That woman will be tearing me a new one if we don't have her numbers to her by the close of day, and I really don't have the time to work on them, what with my meeting with James." She smiles at me, apologetically, for the work she is dumping on me. This is certainly going to keep me busy.
I go back to my desk and put the files I've been working on to one side and concentrate on crunching the numbers for Mike and Jessica. It takes me the rest of the day, but I get the files off just after five, and I sit back with a sigh. I've had my head down all afternoon, my only real break being when Victoria came to see me about the problems I'd found. She explained how she'd brought the issue up with James. At first glance, he didn't think it was anything too worrying, just some data entry issues, probably. But she assured me James would get to the bottom of it. She said he would be personally looking into it, so I didn't need to worry about it anymore.
But worry I did. For some reason my mind failed to drop the issue. At times, my job could be on the monotonous, tedious side, allowing parts of my brain time to wander. Usually, it wandered to images of green eyes, and, as you'd expect, today was certainly no exception there. But today, it also wandered to the figures I'd been looking at. I knew Victoria and James saw my concerns as trivial, but I had this nagging feeling there was more to it than the surface data suggested. There seemed to be a pattern developing, and I was keen to see how far it went. Victoria left about 10 minutes ago, so there is nothing to stop me now. No one can protest that I'm working on this in my own time. Unless they have something to hide.
"You coming?" asks my friend Angela as she passes my cubicle on the way out.
"Not yet," I reply. "There's something I need to do first."
"Do you want me to wait?" she asks.
"No, thanks," I reassure her. "I won't be long, then I'll get the bus home."
Angela waves as she heads for the elevators. As I watch her leave my mind goes back to this morning's encounter. I still struggle to believe it actually happened. I certainly don't know what to make of it. What do I do tomorrow morning? Should I come in late to avoid him? If he is there should I stand near him, or avoid contact? If I stand near him is he likely to do it again? Do I want him to do it again? The reaction of my body as I think about it lets me know it at least would like more.
I shake my head and pull my mind back to the job at hand. I know they'd asked me to drop it, but I also know it's going to bug me until I get to the bottom of this. So, as my co-workers start to file out the office, I start to do what I do best. Number crunch. I pull out file after file, comparing numbers within and across projects. I start to tally up the discrepancies. If these are all real, then money is disappearing off the balance sheet. Just a little here, a little there. Each time, such a small amount it looks like a minor error when viewed on its own. But this is a big company, with many projects. When taken as a whole, the loses add up. They add up to a lot. I'm talking tens of thousands of dollars, potentially hundreds of thousands.
This is big. I then start to look at the pattern of the projects affected. Who'd been involved, who signed off on the numbers, to see if I can spot a correlation. And there is. It is vague and circumstantial, but all projects have been signed off by Victoria. Yesterday, I would have found it hard to believe she was involved, but looking back at how the project I sent to her yesterday was suddenly correct today, and the sudden increase in my workload when I let her know I'd been looking into this, and I start to smell a rat.
Then, there is James. Did she really bring up the problem with him? Maybe he knows nothing about it. I find this hard to believe though. For this to be going on under his nose, he would have to be either really incompetent, signing off on number after number that is off, or complicit.
I continue to investigate, cross-referencing all projects signed off by Victoria against those from other managers. I go back to when Victoria started with the company three years before, pulling up all the data from every project she's worked on. As I work, the pattern becomes clearer to me with each project I look at. The data is not conclusive, but it is heavily implicating. The link to James is even more tenuous, but there are little signs littered here and there that lead me to think he knows this is going on and is either turning a blind eye or is involved up to his eyeballs.
I look up from my work to contemplate what to do with this new knowledge and I notice the clock. Shit, it's late, close to midnight. When I get my teeth into something, I can lose all track of time, and that appears to have happened tonight.
Fuck, I've missed the last bus. By about 2 hours. I'll just have to call for a taxi. I don't fancy walking home at this time of night.
But first, what to do with my findings. I can't confront Victoria; she'll just deny it and find ways to prevent me looking further. James is obviously out. But what about his boss? Caius Volturi, the VP in charge of finance, is also fairly new to the corporation, arriving at a similar time to Victoria. I can't believe someone in his position would be involved. But then, I wouldn't have believed it of Victoria or James either, but the evidence is in black and white before my eyes.
So who can I trust? I can't turn a blind eye to this. My dad is a local cop in the small town where I grew up. He taught me to have a strong moral character. If someone is stealing, because that is exactly what this data suggests, I will feel complicit if I don't do something about it.
Then it occurs to me. The only person I can think of who definitely won't be involved is the same person who will be most interested in hearing someone is embezzling money from the company. The CEO and owner, the elusive Mr. Cullen.
I've never met him personally. He sits in his ivory tower at the top of the building with us mere mortals toiling away beneath him, never deigning to show his face on the floors below. In my short time here, I've heard rumors of people being called to the executive floor for an audience with the reclusive man. Occasionally, rumor has it, the person will be getting congratulated for a job well done, but normally, the opposite is true. The summoning means you have failed in some way. These people, so I've been told, are seen later being escorted from the building by big, burly security guards, never to be seen or heard of again.
It all sounds a little dramatic to me, and nothing of the sort has happened since I've been here. But Angela swears she heard from her predecessor that it happened to a member of their department last year.
I start to put together an email to this mysterious man, wondering if I'm committing career suicide. But then, if I owned a company, I'd want to know if someone was stealing from me, I reason. I highlight my findings in the body of the email, attach my spreadsheet of the compiled data and the most incriminating files, providing links to the others. I know Mr. Cullen probably gets, like, a million emails every day, so I contemplate how to make mine stand out. I go for blunt and to the point and fill the subject line with bold caps: I HAVE EVIDENCE SOMEONE IS STEALING FROM YOU—PLEASE READ.
I press send, wondering briefly if anything will come of it, and if it doesn't, what I'll do. Can I still work for Victoria, look her in the eye and continue to treat her as a friend, knowing what I now know?
I give a big sigh and head for the elevators. As I wait for one to arrive, I send a text to my usual go-to taxi firm. A few minutes later, my phone buzzes with the confirmation text that they will be about 15 minutes. Not too long to wait in reception. When the elevator pings its arrival, I look up as the doors open expecting to see an empty car, but instead, I'm met by the same green eyes that met mine this morning. The same eyes that have been invading my thoughts all day.
AN: This is part one of the original OS. The rest will follow shortly, with some additional parts, before we continue the story from where we left off. I hope you come with me on this journey. It's not all written yet and I do have another story to finish also, and a busy few weeks ahead in RL, so I'm not promising you will get the new stuff straight away, but I promise it is coming.