Summary: They never prepared Edward for an audit like this at business school! Luckily, he is working for a seasoned partner who can guide him and nurture his inner accountant. E/B, All Accountant, All EPOV
Disclaimer: All these characters are the property of Stephenie Meyer, but I bet she never imagined them doing THESE things before!
Internal Control is an accounting term referring to a company's processes designed to ensure accuracy and efficiency of accounting data, and compliance with regulations and common practices. It is also a very human term referring to a man's ability to restrain himself under extreme circumstances.
+ ASSIGNMENTS +
"Dudes! I just pulled Universal Studios! The sweetest job in the office!" Emmett's face is going to break one way or another. Either his smile will shatter it, or one of us will do the job for him. It's so not cool to flaunt his good fortune in our faces while we stand here on pins and needles waiting to be called to the Divider of Doom.
But I've only known all of them six weeks, since the beginning of "B School," twenty fresh, eager accounting majors ready to tackle the world one calculator at a time. So instead of telling Emmett to shut the hell up like I'd like to, I offer him a fake smile and hold up my hand to get high-fived, hoping he won't accidentally punch his fist clear through my adding hand.
What an agonizing process, waiting together in one giant nervous tangle while one "Staff B" at a time is called forward to learn his fate for the next two weeks…or in some cases, two months. You'd think they could come up with a better way to break the news, like a firing squad.
I'm about to shit a brick here. Everyone knows about the "peach" jobs—the movie studios and video game companies and fancy hotels. But we're also painfully aware of the war stories of auditing insurance companies (boring), chemical companies (toxic), and manufacturing plants (boring and toxic). For every great job, there are two that suck wind, and every happy staffer who walks away from that table chips away at the rest of our chances for getting a decent gig.
"Ugh," Rosalie whines. "First California Bank and Trust. Shoot me now."
Emmett's smile fades in solidarity, but it's obvious he's having trouble containing his glee, even to be empathetic for his girlfriend. It would be gross if it were anyone but the two of them: high school sweethearts who went on to UCLA together, both majoring in accounting, and blech, then joining the same firm. Okay, maybe it's a little gross after all. And so is the little kissy-face session they've got going on now, as Emmett tries in vain to cheer her up.
"How do they waste this," she points at her boobs and Emmett follows along with his eyes as her fingers trace the length of her …okay, fantastic…body, "on a bank? A BANK?"
"Well, baby," he tries, "maybe they're just trying to protect their investment? Deposit you somewhere safe?"
"Aaargh! You suck! Trade with me!"
"Baby, I can't," he laughs. "You know that's not how it works."
Alice comes squealing away from the carpeted wall section where the scheduler is hiding. I swear her heels don't even touch the ground as she bounces back to where our little band of five is huddled.
"What'd you get?" Jasper asks with genuine interest. Makes sense he's happy that she's happy; they've been sleeping together since week two of training, and everyone in the room knows it.
"I got LA Magazine!"
"You're gonna be all over that, Al," he gushes. Jas, meanwhile, has been slotted for a music production company, and he's already planning on busting out his demo for them.
The voice of doom calls my name and I march to my sentencing, my mind reeling through the possibilities. There are still a couple of good clients left, but there's also Occidental Pete.
"Edward, hi. Take a seat."
Angela is shielding the printout from me, which definitely raises my blood pressure. I try to peer over the edges, but she is obviously a pro at this.
"So, you've drawn a very special assignment. It's …um…"
What the fuck? Just say it already! Westinghouse. Chem-Dry.
"Ramazon." For some reason, her face is now bright red.
"Excuse me? Did you say, 'Amazon'?"
"No, it's Ramazon." She clears her throat and pushes the paper across the desk into my hands. "They're in the …er, lifestyle industry."
"I'm sorry, the lifestyle—?" Holy shit. Is she saying what I think she's saying? "They make SEX TOYS?"
Suddenly the entire room goes dead quiet, and two beats later, raucous laughter erupts on the other side of the flimsy wall. My eyes burn two holes in the paper as it shakes between my hands. There must be some hideous mistake. This is not happening. I did not work my ass off at Sacramento State getting straight A's for the last four years to go audit dildos and become the laughing stock of Pruitt & Cable!
Angela's mouth is still moving and I zone back in on her words.
"…partner on the job is one of the most sought-after senior partners in the office, Bella Swan. She's held the lead chair on the Ramazon account for six years, and legend has it, this was her first assignment as well. So it can't be all bad, now can it?"
I stare at her overly cheerful expression for a good, hard thirty seconds before responding. What I want to do is scream. What I'm tempted to ask is, "I'm fucked, aren't I?" But because I can't do either of those things, I look at her pathetically and simply confirm my fears. "There isn't any way I'm getting out of this, is there?"
She shakes her head sadly.
+ PRELIM +
"Something you need to tell me, buddy?"
"Fuck, Riley! No! Jesus!" I snap the lid of my laptop down so fast, the breeze sends potato chips and bread crumbs flying into my lap.
The jackass laughs and slaps his big hand down on my shoulder. "No judgment here. Just let me know if I'm tempting you too much and I'll start covering the goods."
"Yeah, you should really do that anyway, 'cause who the fuck wants to see your sad little wiener?"
"Well, hey now. No human could compete with the…what was that?...the Ram 450XL?"
"Fuck you, Ri. I was doing research for my new client."
"Wow. Who'd you get? Perez Hilton?"
I fear the truth may be more mortifying than anything he could imagine, and Riley has a pretty healthy imagination.
I bring my hands to my face and scrub, but—like everything else I've tried in the last two days—it fails to change reality. "The website is the client."
"Wh.h..u. ?" he cackles out. "Your job is a vibe store? What is it, Cocks-R-Us?"
I turn around and muster up my evilest eye, which is not hard to do in my current mood. "This might be one of those times you and your therapist discussed, where you could try injecting a smidgen of sensitivity."
He stares back, and I can see the gears turning. "So who's your boss gonna be, Dirk Diggler?"
I bolt out of my chair and wrap my hands around his neck and he lets me tackle him to the ground. Yeah, personal trainer vs. accountant is not exactly a fair fight, adrenaline jolt aside, so even in my haze I know he's letting me use him as a punching bag.
Just as I pull back my fist, he asks, "Is that a dildo in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?" and I roll off him in exasperation.
Fuuuuuck! This isn't Riley's fault and I better find some way to pull myself together. I have five minutes 'til the prelim call, and I can't let on what a mess I am over this.
I step away from my roommate and offer him a hand up. "Do you think you could possibly refrain from the wisecracks for a few minutes? I'm about to have a serious phone call with the partner on the job so I know what the hell I'm supposed to be doing tomorrow."
"Sure, man," he answers, brushing bits of floor junk from his sweatpants. "But don't you think you should deal with that first?" Riley smirks and circles his index finger in the direction of my button-fly, and I don't need to look down to know what he's talking about.
Whatever. I'm a healthy twenty-two-year-old male and it's a normal response to surfing "lifestyle aids." Besides, it's not a video call, thank Christ. "Thanks for all your great advice."
I swipe my laptop from the coffee table and lock myself into my bedroom, admittedly not the best place for a work conversation, but at least I can put a solid locked door between my roommate and my boss. Opening the browser once again to the home page for Ramazon, I steel myself and place the call.
"Yes, hi. This is…Edward Cullen, I'm the staff person assigned to the Ramazon account…"
"Excellent. Thank you for calling right on time." Her voice is warm and normal, somehow not what I was expecting from the "Sex Queen" of the office. "Have you had a chance to look at the background material?"
"Yes," I say confidently, now that we're discussing official documents and not porno sites. "I read last year's Annual Report and all three quarterly reviews and I'm halfway through the audit program."
"Oh," she says, sounding surprised, or maybe impressed. "Do you have any questions for me?"
"Actually, I do," I reply. "I saw the footnote about foreign currency translation and I wondered how we were going to handle that in light of the new FASB guideline about the effect of overseas income on Earnings Per Share."
"Hunh," she answers, and I'm puzzled. "Tell you what, Edward Cullen…let's discuss that when we meet in person, all right? In the meantime, do you have any questions about the audit procedures you'll be following?"
"Oh, no, that's all fine." Child's play, I'm thinking.
"And have you checked out the website, so you're familiar with the business model and some of the terminology?"
Please stop thinking about anal plugs. Please, please, please…
Now I have a bright red blush to go with my boner. If this were Skype, I'd have to seriously consider a career change. I grab my tension ball from the corner of my desk and squeeze.
"I have," I answer, proud of myself for holding my voice steady and being oh, so mature.
"Any questions?" Again, she seems unbelievably cool about the fact that we're basically discussing riding crops, corsets and cock cages.
I clear my throat. "Um…no." Squeeze, squeeze.
"Okay then, validating cash and accounts receivable should hold you till Friday, when I'm scheduled to come out for my first site visit. You'll be on your own, but don't worry; the girls at headquarters will take very good care of you."
Whatever that means. "Okay."
"I'll be calling to check in and you can always reach me on my cell if you have a problem. Remember, Edward, the only stupid question is the one not asked."
Easy for you to say, lady.
+ ON THE JOB +
You have got to be fucking kidding me! I clutch my briefcase tightly and lift my eyes to the top of the building from the sidewalk out front. Anyone dense enough to miss the fact that the corporate headquarters is shaped like the world's biggest dildo would have to catch on once they notice the two rounded doorways at its base. Yes, Mom and Dad, my first professional engagement is inside a giant penis. Proud of me?
Two and a half million dollars in annual sales, I remind myself. Your first chance to establish your reputation. Suck it up, Cullen.
Aaaand I'm going in.
"You must be Bella's new boy," says a bleach blonde botox-filled Barbie look-alike who greets me on the twenty-eighth floor, somewhere around the frenulum, I'm guessing. Really? New boy?
I clear my throat and offer my hand. "I'm Edward Cullen, from Pruitt & Cable."
"Your pinstripes are a dead giveaway, hon," she answers, dragging her eyeballs up and down my suit in a way that makes me check myself again to make sure my fly is zipped. "I'm Jessica Stanley, your official contact. Come on, I'll show you to the audit suite." She adds a wink and curls her index finger.
"Thanks," I say, but the word dies in my mouth as I catch sight of her ass bouncing along in front of me like a pair of water balloons about to burst. Left, right, left, right, they're hypnotizing me. It's no wonder I nearly slam into her when she stops suddenly and turns around.
"Home, sweet home," she says, then giggles when I pull up short and nearly face plant into her massive chest.
"Sorry," I mumble, feeling the heat burn across my cheeks.
"No worries, hon. Here we are, the Taj Mahal." I follow the sweep of her disturbingly long hot pink nails and regard the space I'm going to be occupying for the next four weeks and I feel the embarrassing urge to cry.
It's a closet, not even glorified at that. There's a small oak desk with a green banker's light and an adding machine left here by Neanderthal Man. There's one chair set in front of the desk and another pushed into the corner. I cringe imagining occupying this space alone, let alone with a fellow human being, and then I remember the partner will be coming out on Friday.
"Coffee pot's down the hall to your left, Little Auditor's Room is to your right, and you know where to find me when you have a question."
"Thanks, Jessica. I'll just get set up and then we can get started."
"Oh, you've already got me started, Mr. Auditor. You just let me know when you're ready to catch up."
If there's one fact they drummed into us at training for the last six weeks, it's that a good rapport with the client can make or break your job. That flirty human blow-up doll is the key to my success and I'm determined to do whatever it takes, I reflect, pulling my supplies from my audit bag and organizing my home away from home for the next four weeks.
+ THE PARTNER +
"Tidying up for the boss?" Jessica asks knowingly, poking her head into the audit closet and snapping her gum out the side of her mouth.
"Just clearing off a place for her to sit," I answer, transferring piles of binders and documents from the spare chair to a corner of the desk.
"Don't sweat it, Pinstripes. Bella's not the type to bust your chops."
I know I shouldn't be nervous. I'm farther along in the audit program than expected and things have gone really smoothly this first week. Still, when I hear the ladies down the hall squealing and greeting my boss like an old friend, my hands get clammy and my tie feels like a boa constrictor around my neck.
Jessica smiles and gives me another wink. "I'll put in a good word for you."
"Thanks," I answer, wondering if that would help or hurt my cause.
"Why, Jessica Stanley," I hear. "How are dildo sales?"
"Oh, you know. Things are always up in our business," she giggles, turning away from me to greet Bella with a warm hug.
"So you'll have some hard figures for us then?" Bella teases back.
Great, I'm the only man as far as the eye can see, and everything is a penis joke.
Finally, the partner-in-charge comes into view, and wowza, what a view it is! My boss is a looker. Tall, fit, well put together, brown hair twisted and folded high on her head, Bella blows the nerdy, bookish stereotype right out of water.
And who knew auditors hugged their clients?
"By the way, nice pick this year," Jessica says, tossing her chin over her shoulder at me, and I suddenly feel like the beef tenderloin Bella's brought to the pot-luck dinner.
"Have you been terrorizing my staff person, Jessica?" Bella asks, casting her first glance in my direction. Something about the way she's said "my staff person" heats me up inside.
"Nah, not really. We're saving it for the physical inventory."
Bella shakes her head and steps around her toward me. "Go get me your sales numbers and leave this poor boy alone."
It suddenly hits me that I've been standing in the doorway staring, slack-jawed, for the past several minutes when I probably should've been pretending to work or something.
"Oh, Edward," Bella says, extending her hand. "I apologize for the initiation by fire. They do it every year."
"No problem," I answer, cool as a cucumber.
"Okay. Show me what you've got."
"Did you finish proving out cash?" She pushes past me and sets her briefcase on the floor next to mine. Then she takes off her jacket and settles it around the chair in front of the desk, completely taking over my space.
Rubbing her hands together expectantly, she says, "Pull up that chair and show me some workpapers."
"Oh, sure. Here's my binder, and…" I slide the other chair over and she scoots to the side so we both fit inside the tiny leg opening.
"You should shut the door, Edward, so we can speak freely."
"Sure." For the first time all week, I pull the door closed. It's just the two of us landlocked in this tiny office, no windows, no interruptions, and very little airflow. Or is it just me?
She turns and watches me walk back to the desk. "You can take off your jacket if you want. It's beastly hot in here."
Oh, so it's not just me, then?
The fact that she looks away when I peel off my jacket somehow makes me feel even more self-conscious about undressing.
Cut the shit, Edward. You still have plenty of clothes on, and so does she. Even if you can see the outline of her bra under her white blouse.
Jesus, is that purple lace? It IS purple lace.
"Ready?" she asks, smirking when she catches my eyes on her chest.
+ INVENTORY +
"It's vital that you understand your role. You are in charge. You want a recount, you get a recount. You have a problem with the process? You lock it down and get me on the phone. There's only one chance to get it right. You cannot be intimidated by the fact that the client has been doing this for sixty years and it's your first time. You need to feel empowered. Are you feeling the empowerment, Edward?"
Bella's brown eyes burn her motivational platitudes into my brain. Honestly, all I'm feeling is sick to my stomach. Some twenty-two-year-old kid wet behind the ears is going to tell the CFO of the largest "leisure toys" company in the country he has to order his employees to stick around an extra hour on a Sunday afternoon to recount the whips? I just don't see it happening.
I wrack my brain trying to come up with a valid rationale for Bella to be onsite for the inventory without coming off sounding like a pussy.
"I see that look on your face," she says, stepping closer to me and meeting me eye-to-eye and pointing her finger into my chest. "Think of it this way. If you don't speak up, and there's a problem later, you're going to have to answer to me."
Her smile doesn't fade, but I feel my balls retract just the same.
She's doing it again. That thing she's been doing for the last two weeks. She's "handling" me, alternating between supportive ego-boosting and unadulterated intimidation.
'You're the best staff person I've ever had' and 'You do not want to disappoint me.'
And it's working. Because I really, really don't.
"Got it," I finally answer, half-confident I can pull it off when the time comes. In two days, my first big test.
Physical Inventory. The dreaded Staff B assignment. The birthplace of all first-year audit war stories.
The chemicals pumping from tank to tank in the dead of night, being double counted right under the staffer's nose.
The cheap decoys substituted by the high-tech company for expensive memory chips without the newbie having a clue.
And the Ramazon version? What might that be? Oh, how about a forgery of the million-dollar "Pear Royal," the vibrator cast in solid platinum and embellished with more than a thousand pink and white sapphires, diamonds, and pearls?
I wipe the pebbles of perspiration from my forehead. They really need to pump some A/C into this stifling little room.
"Edward, listen to me," she says, moving her hand onto my shoulder. "You can do this." And then, the zinger—"I trust you."
"Okay," I agree reluctantly, nodding.
"Good," she says, still measuring me. "Now are you clear on all the different product lines? Because the girls can be brutal if you can't tell the difference between a Ramrod 3000 and a Rambo Deluxe, and you do not want to be caught in that shit storm, trust me."
And here it comes, the conversation I'd been dreading for two weeks has finally arrived. My face has to be as bright red as my tie, which I straighten now just to give my hands somewhere to be.
"Um…" At this point, I know way better than to bullshit her. Seriously, it's her job to ferret it out, and if I've learned one thing, it's that Bella Swan is great at her job.
"Thank you for not insulting me by pretending to know everything," she says, a warm smile coming over her face. "It's a very good quality in a Staff B. Rare, too."
"I will know them all inside and out, by Sunday."
"Good. And don't forget to set up your interval sales test. Pull the ten last sales of the year, and the first ten of the next and make sure the inventory is properly included or excluded."
"Very good, Edward. Any other questions? No? Okay then, I will see you next Friday. Remember, if you have any problems, use my cell number."
+ HOMEWORK +
"Sure you don't want to take a break and get some beer into your joints? I seriously think they could use a little lubrication, guy."
"Thanks, Ri, but I have a ton of work to do before Sunday morning."
"Hmm," he answers, a smirk forming on his face. "Does that include the extended sessions you've been taking in the bathroom ever since you started this job?"
"Yes. It's part of the audit program. See here? It comes right after, 'Shut the fuck up, asshole.'"
"Well, then, I suppose I better leave you to it. Don't forget to clean the splooge off the wall this time."
He escapes before my stress ball can reach his head, and the useless ball bounces off the door instead and rolls back to me.
Yes, I've been beating off three times a day since Ramazon started. Sometimes a stress ball just doesn't do the trick.
Like when a guy's boss is all hotness and no-biggie about discussing bondage toys and triple-x videos and…fucking hell…the lingerie. Sure, I've watched my share of porn and I've meandered through "those" stores at the mall, but walking through the halls of Ramazon, touring the leather room—aka, the dungeon—with three insanely beautiful women who discuss intimate sex acts with the ease of discussing what they're serving for dinner that night? It's getting to me!
I am in a constant state of arousal; we are talking pain here. It's all I can do to contain myself in that tiny little closet they've set up for me. I swear, the other day, when Jessica brought in the latex samples, I just about blew my wad right there at my desk! Thank goodness the "Little Auditor's Room" is nearby because there's just no way I'd make it from 9 to 5 without some relief.
Do I feel like a creeper? Yeah.
But a guy's gotta do what a guy's gotta do. And the only way I'm living through this assignment, getting through meetings with my sexy-as-fuck boss, is by letting off some steam. And if a certain leggy brunette with a brain to match her impressive tits is starting to feature in those sessions, well, so be it.
Now, where was I? Oh yes…Ben Wa balls.
+ SALES +
"Where is this huge pallet of items going?"
"Shipping to the Thomas residence in Pennsylvania," Victoria answers, a wicked gleam in her eye. "One of our very best customers," she says, and the other girls burst into giggles.
"I can see that." The sales report is littered with orders shipping to this same residence. Vibes, leather, waxing kits, cock rings in all shapes and sizes—I make a note to discuss this with Bella. Is it possible that one residence could make use of so many sex toys? I shudder to think of the goings-on in that household.
Who am I kidding? I'm jealous as all hell. I may be verifying counts of crotchless panties, but it's not exactly the same as seeing them on a real live girl. Even if the online catalog is quite…vivid.
"And the order for Clarke?"
"Oh, you mean the vibrator gift set?" Jessica asks. "We shipped that last week. It was for Christmas."
"Okay, one more…let's see."
The Ramazon Rabbit, sold on December 29th, to be shipped January 4th. She knew I'd be seeing this—hell, she specifically ordered me to! Why, that dirty partner! "Yes, may I see the order shipping to the Swan residence next week?"
I attempt matter-of-fact, but my voice still sounds frat-boy eager to my ears.
Jessica gives me a knowing smile and leads me to the side wall."Sure thing, sugar." She hands me the shrink-wrapped Rabbit vibrator and I turn it over and over in my hands, imagining all kinds of inappropriate thoughts, like how the large part will look stuffed into my boss's …oh shit. I can't.
"Seen everything you need, Pinstripes?" she taunts me, eyebrows raised and eyes sweeping down my body.
One of the only nice things about working on a Sunday is I didn't have to wear my suit. It's just me and my Sunday jeans, with a presentable button-down, of course. Suddenly, I'm wishing I'd left it untucked so that the front flap would at least have a chance of hiding my enthusiasm for my boss's order.
"Yea…er…yes," I croak. Everything I need…and then some.
"Oh, and I know what you're thinking," Jessica adds.
Fuck, she does?
"It's full price, no discount. You can look right here on the profit report. Just like all of Bella's orders."
All of…? Gulp.
I am so "auditing" the sales of one Bella Swan the second I get back to my desk, where I don't have to worry about my body's response to my boss's sex life.
"Yep, it's all above board. Wouldn't want anyone questioning your firm's independence, now would we?"
"Uh…no, of course not," I answer.
Jessica waves the Rabbit in front of my face. "We keep it all at arm's length, or …" she giggles, "…should I say, 'Penis length'?"
No, you should definitely NOT say that.
"Aw, sweetie, I'm sorry. Did I make you blush again?"
"I'm fine." She doesn't look sorry at all.
She leans in close. "Good. I just wanted you to know that in case you decide you want to place an order or something."
"Thanks, I think I'm good."
"No? I can't interest you in a riding crop? You seem like you might be a take-charge kind of guy."
"Yeah, um…no, thank you." I scratch my head.
"No? How about a pair of nipple clamps for your girlfriend? You do have a girlfriend, don't you? Handsome, smart guy like yourself?"
"Uh…I'm all set in the hardware department, thanks." I fumble with the printout in my hands and stab randomly to the middle of the page. "Let's take a look at this one next."
+ OBSOLESCENCE +
"You sure you don't want to sit?" I ask, not just to be polite or deferential, but because having her over my shoulder, leaning over to point things out to me, brushing her chest against my shoulder each time, is making me kind of nuts.
"I'm fine. Tell me how you determined the 300 series to be obsolete. That's a huge write-off."
I keep my eyes locked on my papers. "Jessica explained that the new 400's are new and improved. There's an on-off switch, but also three speeds. So clearly, it's superior."
"Agreed," she says, and I blow out a deep breath. And then, she puts her hand on my shoulder. It's far too familiar, considering we're locked into a tiny closet discussing vibrators. "But, what's the definition of obsolete?"
I feel foolish talking to my desk, so I turn my head, back over my shoulder, to face her. She's too close. I can't breathe.
From the second she walked in today, it's all I can do to stop the visual of her holding that Rabbit…using that Rabbit…gah!
"Obsolete. No longer useful; superseded by a superior model."
"Okay," she humors me, sliding around and sitting on the corner of my desk, pulling my eyes with her. "Let me play devil's advocate for a moment."
I nod and swallow, picturing her in a tight red suit with horns and a pitchfork.
"Let's say some woman…let's say it's me, in fact…what if I have a Ram 325 in perfectly good working condition? Does the fact that the company made a new one mean mine isn't useful anymore?"
I blink a couple times to push aside the visuals before answering, "Isn't the real question whether the inventory sitting in stock is saleable? I mean, yeah, if you…uh…have one, and it works and all…"
Christ. Are you kidding me?
"…but if the person—"
"Me," she interjects.
"Okay, if you were in the market for a new… vibrator…"
I think I might die of embarrassment.
"Yes?" she smiles sweetly.
"Why would you ever choose the older model?"
Her eyes lock me in place. I can feel the beads of sweat rolling down my temples and steam forming under my armpits. Never in a million years did I imagine a career in accounting would include discussing my boss's use of a vibrator as an audit procedure.
Why, oh why, didn't I pull Occidental Pete? I could be dipping toxic chemicals right now!
"Excellent. That is exactly the issue. Now, why does a woman buy a vibrator?"
"Um…I mean…you know…don't you think…"
Bella busts out in a full belly laugh. "I'm sorry. That was meant to be rhetorical."
"Let's assume we both know the answer to that?" She poses a question with her eyebrow, and I nod, ever so grateful she's not making me articulate the answer. Because clearly I'm incapable.
"So if the Ram 350 can accomplish that goal, at…" she checks the papers, "five dollars less than the newer model, isn't there a chance that there's still a healthy market for the original model?"
"Oh," I answer, deflated. "Should I reverse my entry?"
"Hang on," she says, grabbing my pencil hand where it hovers over the page. "You need to ask more questions."
I look up at her, and she loosens her grip on my hand. I sink back into my chair, puzzled and a bit embarrassed in a new way.
"Do you know why they stopped manufacturing the 300 series?"
"No." I realize instantly I should've investigated this further. Rookie mistake. "I didn't even think to ask."
"Hey, is this not your very first engagement?"
"Stop. You're here to learn. That's where the fun comes in for me. You wouldn't want to deprive me of my fun, now would you?"
She winks, and I'm bright red all over again.
"I'm gonna save you some wear and tear on your Johnston and Murphys. The intensity disc on the 300's is a piece of shit. It's inconsistent at best, and when the batteries get low, it fluctuates randomly from zero to sixty, and let me tell you…that can be very disruptive. So, can it get the job done? Yes, probably, if your customer happens to be highly orgasmic and has a steady stream of Energizers in the drawer. But once Ramazon rolled out the new technology, sales on the old models dropped off significantly."
"Yes, I did note the tapering right here," I point proudly to my work.
"Yes, you did. You were just one question away from perfect. The adjustment stands, Edward. Good work."
+ PEERS +
"Hey, Edward! Did you bring that jumbo cock ring for me?" Emmett's voice booms out across the crowded bar and I'm already sorry I came.
"Yes, Emmett. It's right here in my pocket, along with the penile pump you ordered."
Jasper high-fives me and Rosalie sniggers, but Emmett is impossible to embarrass. I won't beat him at his own game.
"Dude, I don't think Rosie could walk straight if I got any bigger. You better keep that for yourself. Or maybe you could sell it to Newton."
Mike Newton, the guy voted Most Likely To Get His Lips Stuck To A Partner's Ass. The only guy who pulled a job more hideously awkward than mine—Pornavision, Inc. But instead of landing a sweet, sexy partner, Newton got Brian "Proctology" McGee, infamous for telling his clients that an audit is like a rectal exam.
"How's it going, man?" I return Emmett's double-arm tap/guy hug thing and he hands me a mug filled with something light yellow. "How's King Kong?"
"He is a big motherfucker," he answers. "But doesn't your company sell a replica of his dick?"
"Nice. How's the bank job going, Rose?"
"Meh. It sucks, but the partner's promised me a great review, so hopefully I'll be on the short list for the next round."
"Sweet. So, what was your inventory like?"
"Probably nowhere near as fun as yours, but it was kinda cool, actually. They had to fingerprint me before I was allowed in the vault, but I felt like I was in a James Bond movie when we walked inside to count the securities. It's weird to see all the paper in this day and age, but there are actual stock certificates!"
"I guess I never really thought of that."
"So, Alice was just telling us her big news when you walked in," Rosalie says. "Go on, Ali."
"Oh, yeah. So, the feature writer for the Style section said she's gonna take a look at my writing. I might have to give up the client, but to be published? It would totally be worth it," she gushes.
"Hey, that's great news," says Emmett, and Jasper nods along proudly.
"How 'bout you, Jas? They have a chance to hear your demo?"
Jasper waves off my question. "They told me I wasn't a bad singer for an accountant, but don't quit my day job."
"Hey, man, that sounds rough. I'm sorry."
"It's all right. It's just one person's opinion. In the meantime, I'm learning a ton about the financial side of the business, and the rest of the audit team is cool."
"Okay, Eddie, stop deflecting. Tell us about Cocksville and the Queen of the Vibes," Emmett says.
"It's been great. I've learned a lot—"
Emmett sticks his elbow in my ribcage. "Oh yeah? Do tell, buddy."
"…about accounting, you big pervert. And Bella's a great mentor."
"Aaaand?" He tries to jab me again but I step out of reach.
"Oh, come on, the two of you are out there all alone, surrounded by kink all day, and never once has it crossed your mind to tap that?"
"I didn't say it hasn't crossed my mind."
"What, Emmett? Do you never have an impulse you don't follow through on?"
The others laugh and Emmett sucks down his beer.
"Maybe one or two, but thanks to this little lady," he says, grabbing Rosalie around her shoulders, "most of my impulses get satisfied."
"How nice for the two of you," I comment.
Rose rolls her eyes and pushes Emmett away. "So what's it really like? Is everyone who works there just sex on wheels all the time?"
"Not really, Rose. It's just inventory to them. I mean, sure, they know their stuff and there are a lot of great-looking young people roaming the office, but it's not like everyone's jumping each other in the corridors."
"Hmm, too bad," Jasper responds.
"Any exciting new products coming onto the market?" Rose asks with great interest.
"As a matter of fact, they're about to announce the new—"
"The new WHAT?" Alice and Rose both ask at the same time.
"I'm sorry. It's a secret."
"Ugh!" Alice whacks me in the arm with a tiny fist that packs a wallop.
"Hey, I'll tell you who Universal has signed for the remake of Smokey and The Bandit."
"They're remaking Smokey and The Bandit?" Alice asks, her nose scrunched up.
"Sorry, guys. I can't." I shake my finger at Emmett. "And you shouldn't either. You want to lose that engagement?"
"Nah. I don't know anyhow. I was just gonna make something up."
"Pfffffft. Nice try, baby. Thanks anyway," Rose says, pinching Emmett in the side.
"So how much longer are you there?" Jasper asks.
"Just another week to finish up the expense side."
"Not much time to make your move," chides Emmett.
"There are no moves to be made. She's my boss. I'm her…staff person."
"Awww, that's kinda sweet," Alice reflects, making my face heat up. "Maybe she'll snag you for another of her jobs."
As if I haven't been hoping the same thing, and possibly studying her client list. But I've refrained from dropping hints up 'til now. I'm not sure how much longer my restraint will last.
+ EXPENSES +
"I'm looking at a twenty percent increase in payroll costs, and the lion's share is in the modeling line. Can you explain that, Edward?"
"Yes. There's a new girl who does all the leather and bondage work, and she charges one-fifty per hour."
Bella whistles through her teeth. "Hefty. Maybe I'm in the wrong line of work," she comments, looking sideways at me. We're crammed together inside the desk opening, pushing through the last audit area. And now I'm picturing my boss in a leather corset and spiky heels, which really challenges my concentration.
Her review has been brutally detailed, but so far, I've had a reasonable answer for each of her questions. I leave her provocative comment alone, but she follows it up with, "So, in your professional opinion, is she worth it?"
My tongue feels like a giant pillow in my mouth and the words in my head feel all wrong. Is Aja, the demure, dark-haired sinewy Thai beauty worth the money they're paying her? I mean, she certainly works for me, but…I'm not sure what Bella's asking for.
"Did you want me to bring up her image on the screen so you can see for yourself?" How do you audit this? I wonder.
She shakes her head. "No. I'm asking you. Have you checked out the nude shots from her personnel file?"
Gulp. "No. Was I allowed to—I mean, supposed to?"
Bella cracks a smile and I realize she's toying with me again. "No. I'm just teasing you because it's so damn fun. Seriously, though, is she effective?"
"Well, I mean, I haven't ordered any leather panties or anything, but I guess you'd say she gets the job done."
Bella looks shocked. "Listen to you. It only took four weeks, but you're finally loosening up."
"Just in time for the job to be over," I say, revealing far more misery than I meant to.
She looks at me a beat longer than feels comfortable, then turns her head back to the paper. "About this double-declining depreciation method…"
+ RELEASE +
LOS ANGELES, Ca. — Jan. 11, 2013 — Ramazon, Inc. today announced revenue of $3.2 million for the year ended Dec. 31, 2012, a 4.3% increase this year over last. CEO Rodney Longer attributes the increase to a renaissance in sexuality, especially in the "Cougar population" of women over thirty-five and the proliferation of online erotica as a result of the Twilight saga.
"We sure are gonna miss your face around here, Pinstripes," Jessica says, watching me pack up my workpapers and laptop. "Just when you were starting to have some fun."
"Well, maybe I'll see you next year."
"Nope," she answers sadly. "Bella always picks a new guy. She says the job doesn't need more than a first-year staffer and she likes to keep down the audit costs that way."
There goes that theory.
"Hey, um, now that the earnings release has gone out, and the books are closed, the girls and I…we wanted you to have this. Our gift to you."
"What?" I stop what I'm doing and turn to face her. She's holding out a small wrapped package with the company sticker on top. "Hey, I can't take this."
"Sure you can, hon. We asked Bella." Jessica winks and I can't resist.
"You guys shouldn't have," I say, taking the gift from her.
"We wanted to. You've been a real peach. Most of the other kids that have come through here have just been..." she crinkles up her nose, "well, entitled monsters. You're different. You're a great kid. We want you to remember us."
"Jessica, I don't think I could forget this job if I tried. And why would I?" I chuckle.
"Ya got me there, Pinstripes. Go on, open it."
"Seriously? Right now?"
I have a feeling whatever it is would best be savored in private.
"Yeah. Come on, that's half the fun. They're all waiting…"
I turn around and see that the tiny doorway is jam-packed with eager faces, the women who've been answering my questions, providing documentation, making me look good for my boss.
"Hey, thanks everyone. This is really sweet."
"Open it!" is shouted over and over, until finally, I grip the seam and tug.
"Holy shit! It's the Aja sleeve!" I am standing in front of fifteen women, holding a pussy mold in my hands. This might be the freakiest moment of my life.
"We know you have a little thing for Aja," Jessica winks. "We thought you might want to take a little piece of her with you when you go."
Hells to the yeah, I do. And I am now the proud owner of an anatomically-correct, custom-molded silicone vagina with four tightly-spaced chambers, "built to provide the most sensitive part of your member with continued intense sensations."
From anyone else, this would probably be horribly insulting, but from these women, I recognize it for what it is, a sincere expression of affection. And one of the best damn gifts I've ever received, no contest. Certainly, it's something I would not have purchased for myself.
"Thanks. I don't know what to say."
Jessica closes in to hug me and I hold the pet pussy out of the way, but I don't let go. So auditors do hug their clients. Or maybe it's just this one. Somehow I cannot see Rose hugging the Comptroller of First California Bank and Trust.
Speaking quietly into my ear, Jessica says, "Do yourself a favor, sweetheart. Keep it in the very back of a very deep drawer. Girls don't always appreciate knowing their guys have a spare pussy on hand."
"Sound advice, Jessica. Thank you."
"You take good care, Pinstripes. And use that in good health."
"Thanks for everything, Jessica." I raise the pussy over my head. "Thanks everyone. Give my regards to Aja!"
+ PERFORMANCE REVIEW +
"Edward, come in. Have a seat."
Bella welcomes me into her office, one of the luxurious corner suites on the top floor of our office building.
"Wow, nice view," I say, walking to the window.
"A little more spacious than our audit closet," she responds, gesturing to the couch and sinking into the leather seat across the small table.
One drawback to this big, air-conditioned space is that she has her jacket on, and there's hardly a speck of flesh showing above her waistline, but below the skirt, it's all legs and pumps. Also, we're really far away from each other, which is both good and bad.
I would've thought that spending the weekend breaking in my Aja pussy would at least take the edge off my fierce fantasies about my boss, but using Bella's face and body to fill in the rest of the picture has only left me more stoked than ever. And now I'm already feeling melancholy that this final wrap-up meeting will be our last time together, aside from whatever errand I might invent to bring me up to her floor to casually, accidentally, be "in the neighborhood."
So I suppose, looking at things objectively, it's good that she's not tempting me at close range any longer. But it's not as if I want her any less because there are a few more feet between us.
"So…your first performance review."
"Yeah," I say anxiously, sitting up straight against the cushions of the sofa and trying not to show how nervous I am.
"First off, I have a confession to make," she says, causing a chill to creep up my spinal column. "Every year, I scout out the new recruits. I look at resumes and extracurricular interests, and I get reports from the B School instructors. The Ramazon account requires something very special; it demands maturity and gravity, but at the same time, one absolutely needs a sense of humor. You fit the bill perfectly, by all accounts."
"Oh. Wow." Scouted. Not a word an accounting major dares hope he'll hear ever in his lifetime. Cool.
She smiles at my surprised response. "Beyond that, I look for someone to whom the client will respond positively. Sadly, I've made a few errors in the past…well, that's neither here nor there. Point is, this year, I picked you."
"You're welcome. And thank you for not disappointing me." Her smile broadens and so does mine. It's a good start.
"You know, Edward, up until you, the extent of research a Staff B had done before showing up to the job site was browsing the website for twenty minutes, maybe even purchasing some of the products out of curiosity…yeah, of course we knew." She shakes her head at the naïveté of my predecessors.
"But not you," she continues. "You put in the hard work, every step of the way. You took the job seriously, approached every issue with the appropriate air of professional skepticism, and matched all that with the charisma to have the client eating out of your hand."
For about the millionth time, I know I'm blushing hard. I wasn't prepared for this. I know I screwed up over and over, but she's not even mentioning those mistakes.
"You're welcome again. I happen to think you're off to a flying start here at Pruitt & Cable, and I have already asked Scheduling to put you on my next engagement…if that's all right with you."
I practically jump off the couch and my heart leaps in my chest. "Yes!"
Oops, not very cool. I force myself to take a deep breath, sit back down, and respond again, "Sure, that would be fine." My voice is as subdued as I can manage, but still it smacks of joy. Sue me.
Bella chuckles. "Don't you even want to know who the client is?"
I honestly could not care less. If she's in charge, I am all in with both feet and an adding machine. "Sure."
"You better hold onto your seat, Edward. We've just acquired Mandalay Entertainment Group, and I'm the lead partner on the account."
"MANDALAY? As in 'I Know What You Did Last Summer' and 'Donnie Brasco'? The Golden State Warriors?"
Forget it! I am out of my seat, throwing my hands into my hair, pacing, yanking on my tie…I am a complete mess! I literally do not know what to do with myself. I feel like this office cannot contain my excitement. I want to jump up and down and scream for joy and all of this isn't even the best part.
Once I slow down for a second, I hear Bella chuckling behind me, waiting patiently for me to settle down like an expired wind-up toy. Wind-up Accountant…give him a gem of a client with the most perfect partner in the office, and watch him go, folks!
Bella. She picked me once, and now she's picked me again. This time is even sweeter, because she knows my work, knows my ethics, and she trusts me to do a good job for her.
"Wow. I don't know what to say. Thank you."
"Well, Edward, for the third time, you are very welcome. I'm still assembling the team, but I want you as my anchor. Do you think you can pull yourself together and be back here tomorrow morning at 8 am for an engagement meeting?"
She stands and holds out her hand to me. I shake it firmly and look her straight in the eye, just the way my father taught me. "Great job, Edward. I'll see you tomorrow morning. Oh, and here."
She slides a manila folder from the corner of her desk and hands it to me.
"Your written PR. It's already in your file; this is your copy. Let me know if you have any questions on why I gave you such high marks."
She adds a wink at the end, and I take the folder with my left hand as if cradling a newborn.
Blushing again? Really?
"The pleasure is all mine."
I head for the door before I thank her another damn time. Just as I turn the handle, she calls my name and I spin around. "And Edward? Have fun with Aja tonight!"
+ THE END +
A/N: Written for mad4hugh (Gisela)—a lovely soul I was privileged to "meet" through my words, and then hers, from one accountant to another.
I hope you all enjoyed this little morsel of Pinstripes and Partnerella! A little blast from my pre-porn-writer past! XXX ~BOH