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“Congratulations, Delilah,” the woman sang into the phone. “I’ve got good news.”
Delilah held her breath on the other line, the pit of her stomach going hot. Her sweaty hand trembled as she held the phone to her ear and suppressed the urge to nibble a cherry-red fingernail.
“We’re delighted to offer you a job,” the woman said.
“Oh,” Delilah sighed with relief. “I’m delighted to accept.” Delighted was putting it mildly. She could have danced naked in the street out of pure gratitude, if it wasn’t illegal – and maybe a tad extreme for the middle of the week. This was New Orleans, though. Raunchier things had happened on a Wednesday.
“Excellent!” The woman fairly chirped. “We’ll be so thrilled to have you join our team. Can you start in two weeks?”
“I can start tomorrow!” Desperate much, Del?
“Oh, don’t I wish that you could! But there’s one thing left to do before you can start. It’s a little thing, really.”
“Sure,” Delilah answered as she cast her eyes around the tiny brick-walled living room of her apartment. Dusty chocolate-colored fake leather couch that doubled as a bed, a fleece throw that served as bedding and a rickety old chest that played the role of coffee table and linen closet with equal aplomb. Every item in the studio space had to fill multiple needs. Double-duty Delilah, they called her at work, where she toted heavy trays of food and drinks past tables of impatient male customers who serenaded her with drunken catcalls. She could push away the greedy fingers pawing at her skimpy shorts even as she slipped the crushed dollar bills from their fingers.
But not anymore. She wasn’t going to wait tables at a seedy, if popular, nightspot anymore. Now she’d be Dependable Delilah, Going Places Delilah, Corporate Drone Delilah. Boring Delilah. She hushed that voice, confident that if she could handle dispensing body shots of tequila to brawny men twice her size, she could handle working in a quiet, bland office where the pay was regular and there was actual health insurance and, rumor had it, 401K. Delilah’s head reeled at the concept of actually having enough money to squirrel away for retirement instead of needing it for laundry.
She’d dropped out of college one semester short of a degree, to take care of her father when the nice people at the hospital had quietly explained there was nothing else to do. And when those same nice people had ignored her calls about hospice help, she never looked back. She wouldn’t regret those months she spent making soup and watching her dad pretend to sip it as he wasted away. She had the rest of her life to finish college and only one father.
But when he’d died, there’d been so many expenses and too quickly, the money she thought would be left for her to finish her degree was gone. It had always just been Delilah and her dad, her mother having disappeared so long ago no one ever spoke of her, so there was no backup plan, no shoulder to cry on. Three weeks later, she was convincing a restaurant manager that she had loads of waitressing experiencing.
It was funny, Delilah thought at the time, how much easier it was to make a choice when you didn’t really have one.
But I do now. Delilah spied an angry-looking Visa bill on the coffee table and clutched the phone tighter. “What were you saying about this thing I need to do?”
“A drug test,” the woman answered. “It’s not a big deal. They take a tiny hair sample and you’re done.”
“Sounds easy enough,” Delilah tried to match the woman’s cheerful tone. Hair test, skin test, DNA test, she could care less. It was one final step between her and the ability to pay rent.
“Good.” The woman cleared her throat. Hesitating the tiniest bit, she continued, “I should tell you, the man at the testing center … well, some people find him a little strange. But he’s harmless, I can assure you. Nothing to worry about — he’s just not the warmest fellow. But, as I said, it’s hardly anything. Just a silly little test. You’re in and you’re out and then you’re hired.”
“I’m not worried,” Delilah assured her. “Bring on the scissors!”
Two hours later, and she hopped off the trolley, turning down one street and up the other, until she stopped in front of a small strip of businesses. In between a lamp store and a magic shop that had seen better days, was Suite 33, Test Me — Testing Solutions for the Modern Business. Dried orange leaves scattered at her feet as she crossed the road. The scent of something she couldn’t quite place drifted beneath her nose. A candle, maybe. Spicy and warm.
She shook her head. Who’d be lighting candles around here? Probably someone in the magic shop, trying to drum up customers with drugstore voodoo and air freshener. There didn’t appear to be another soul in this sad little retail center.
Just as she reached the door, though, a small black cat darted across the sidewalk in front of her.
“Well,” she said out loud. “I’m not going to read too much into that.” After all, it was only a week from Halloween. Superstitions, unlike paychecks, were plentiful enough that she could afford to dismiss one or two. Her luck was changing today.
She was sure of it.
The glass door was heavy, and she yanked it open against a suddenly chilly wind. “Geez,” she muttered, “it’s like the damn door doesn’t want to let me in.”
Once inside, she took a quick peek around the small, beige waiting area, flanked by a quartet of sad-looking vinyl chairs. A coffee table leaned on spindly legs between the chairs, spread with old magazines that nobody would want to read. A bass-fishing title from the turn of the century appeared to be the most recent, and even that looked well-thumbed. Delilah hoped she wouldn’t have to wait long.
“Please sign in,” read the hand-lettered sign taped to the edge of a glass partition, partially obscuring it and Delilah approached. As she scribbled her name with the black marker on a blank sheet of paper, she caught a glimpse of herself. Long, brown curls fell past the shoulders of her green jersey dress. Freckles left over from summer’s tan dotted her face and the muscular legs peeping out from her short skirt. She had the kind of tall, fit body that was slim enough by her standards to wear a bikini, with breasts and a bottom round enough to make men glad she did.
Standing on tiptoe to get a better glance into the partition, she felt the thick strap of her black booties dig into her ankle. The last pair of nice shoes she owned hadn’t been made for walking the eight blocks from the trolley stop. No matter. She might be desperately seeking employment, but damned if she wouldn’t look good in the process.
Delilah almost fell over in shock as the sharp voice pierced the silence of the waiting room. The partition slid halfway open and a man with dark hair and angry indigo eyes glared at her.
“I’m here for the drug test.” Delilah informed him, waving a sheaf of crumpled forms to indicate her mission.
He reluctantly pulled back the glass all the way and snatched the papers from her hand. Scanning them briefly he returned his glance to her, his eyes skimming her hopeful face without a trace of a smile. Stonily, he pointed to the door to the right of the partition. “Come in and take a seat.”
Delilah pushed the door open and looked from side to side. She couldn’t see him or where she was supposed to sit.
“Over here, I said.” His voice crackled with impatience and Delilah sidled over to the left, peering into a cramped office. A heavy metal desk dominated the room, clean if battered. A thick bank of green plants cascaded down the side of a bookshelf, dangling vines close enough that Delilah could practically touch them. And the smell in the room – it was that same scent she’d whiffed outside. Like a mix of patchouli, pumpkin and apple. Someone’s been overdosing on potpourri, she mused, trying to lighten the situation by focusing on some funny little detail– a tactic that typically worked well. Here, though, in the creepy silence of the office, humor was hard to find.
The drug test man sat behind the desk and pointed to a chipped wooden chair. Delilah lowered herself to the seat, trying to tug it forward so she could sit closer, but the awful scraping sound the thick wood made across the tiled floor stopped her. At least the seat was comfortable. Almost too comfortable, with a thick velvety cushion that Delilah sank into, and then instantly tried to sit up straighter out of nervousness.
As the man frowned at her paperwork, she couldn’t help but notice that really, he was handsome. If tall, dark and frosty was your type. Short black hair, with a fringe of bangs that hung just above those deep blue eyes. Broad shoulders strained beneath a very boring white shirt with far too many buttons. He was younger than his icy demeanor would suggest; maybe thirty if Delilah had been a betting woman.
If only he had a personality.
Delilah shifted in the seat and he looked up, glowering. She froze. He didn’t look the type to tolerate mistakes – his bristling attitude made that abundantly clear, and she couldn’t afford for the test to go poorly.
“So,” she smiled, hoping that a cheerful, professional tone might smooth things over. “How long does this take?”
He did not return the expression, but merely raised an eyebrow. Reviewing the forms she’d given him, his nostrils flared with distaste for the task ahead of him. Or at least that’s what Delilah imagined. She wanted to clear things up; to say, “Look, I don’t do drugs, this is just a test. For a job that I’ve already gotten and you’re just a formality, so let’s get this over with and I’ll leave you to your precious paperwork and PMS.”
But his face didn’t invite chatter and she remained silent. Finally he put the forms down on his desk and sighing, he opened a drawer. He carefully slid his hand inside, as if not wanting her to see what he was looking for.
Delilah peered forward, curious, but his eyes snapped up and he caught her staring. He slammed the drawer shut, making her jump. The edge of his mouth almost moved then, as if amused.
He’s enjoying this, Delilah realized, and she frowned right back at him and crossed her arms over her chest. His stare wavered, drifting down her neck and then back up again. Locking on her face, he raised a brow slightly.
Your move, asshole.
Carefully he placed three objects on the surface between them. A long cardboard envelope. A shiny new pair of scissors, encased in a blue plastic sleeve. A long silver comb.
“How much hair are you taking?” Delilah eyed the scissors nervously. She hadn’t known what to expect, but a long, gleaming pair of shears certainly hadn’t been on her radar. She’d pictured something more along the lines of tweezers, plucking out a strand or two, not hacking off chunks of her pride and joy.
He sneered and answered in a mocking tone, “it’s a hair test. I’ll cut a sample of your hair and send it to a lab. Any more questions?”
“No,” Delilah answered quickly. She ran her fingers self-consciously through a strand that fell over her breast, twisting a piece around her little finger as if worried he might yank it suddenly from her head.
Silently, he watched her nervous movement. If he felt a hint of compassion or empathy, he gave nothing away. Opening another drawer, he removed a pair of latex gloves. Sliding his fingers inside, he snapped the thin rubbery edge around his wrist until the gloves fit tightly over his large, knotty hands.
Once he was satisfied that the gloves fit just right, he picked up the sealed package containing the scissors. Nudging his index finger under the perforated edge, he slowly ran the tip of his latex-enclosed nail against the dotted line, back and forth until the sleeve released and puckered open with a soft whoosh of air. Holding the sleeve in one hand, he tilted it upward to let the scissors fall into his other open palm. Gingerly, he scooted the empty plastic pocket to the side while he examined the scissors. Caressing the smooth silver handles, he ran his fingers around the inside of the metal loops, as if testing to make sure they met his standard. Then he ran his thumb along the long, sharp shears, prodding the shiny tip with the slightest touch.
From another drawer, he produced a small square of chamois, which he then used to polish the scissors. And if Delilah thought they looked wickedly sharp before, they looked downright dangerous now, gleaming in the light of the room like a weapon. Lifting the scissors, he stood and approached Delilah.
“Lean back,” he commanded.
Jesus, what a nut job. She wasn’t sure she should comply. Clearly, he was crazy after being cooped up in this office for who knows how many years. No matter how hot he was and how desperate she was, she didn’t think her chances at a “real” job were going to improve from being chopped into tiny bits.
Some people find him a little strange. The woman’s voice echoed in her head, as she hesitated in the chair. Maybe that was his thing. Maybe he just pretended to be this creepy to freak people, knowing they were too scared about passing the drug test to do anything about it. Maybe after work, he clocked out and met buddies at a bar, regaling them with stories of all the people he’d ‘tested’ with his looney bin routine. Why, he was probably a perfectly normal, garden-variety jackass, and he’d be laughing it up later about her.
“Ahem,” he cleared his throat and, slightly less arctic this time, repeated, “I really do need you to lean back. I can’t get the sample that I need otherwise.”
Sample, my ass. But she obliged, smoothing her skirt over her knees as she scooted backward. She certainly wasn’t going to get screwed over by some dickhead on a drug test power trip. She could feel his eyes on her, watching and waiting with impatience . . . or maybe something else. A wicked impulse prompted her to slowly twist her hips, wiggling her bottom back and forth until her shoulders were flush with the fabric-covered seatback.
He said nothing, but his flashing eyes told Delilah he was interested. She returned his stare and licked her lips, restraining herself from an over-the-top gesture; merely letting the tip of her tongue slip across the gloss-slicked surface of her mouth.
“Is this how you want me?” Her eyes never left his as she asked, and the tightening of his jaw muscles was the only answer she needed.
He moved behind her chair. A thrill shot through her as he disappeared from her view. Logically, she knew he must be getting ready to cut her hair, but a darker urge made her thighs tremble as she waited for him to make the first move. Not that she was into him, mind you. It was control she was after. The control he foolishly thought he had, which she was about to snatch right out of his scissor-wielding hands. Men, she thought, they’re all the same.
She could hear the dull rushing noise of the furnace in the silence of the room. He was right behind her chair, yet he wasn’t moving. What was he doing? Another moment ticked by and frustrated, she cracked her knuckles.
“Please don’t do that.” His voice was calm. Maybe he became a nicer person with the scissors. Maybe they were some sort of strange security blanket for him. Maybe he took them to bed. Now she had to try not to giggle, picturing him talking to a pair of scissors, stroking them on a pillow, tucking them finally beneath a soft blanket as he sucked his thumb. She really had to work now, biting her lip as the laughter threatened to spill from her throat. She fidgeted, rocking her ankle back and forth beneath the chair in nervous agitation.
Quickly, he stepped around and faced her, standing inches from her chair, his crotch practically at face level as he said in a deceptively soft voice, “Perhaps I wasn’t clear. I don’t want you to move.” Then he crouched down, reached forward and grabbed her ankle. His touch wasn’t painful, just shocking, as he rubbed his thumb slightly against her calf, the movement catching Delilah completely off kilter and forcing her to stop jiggling her leg.
He stayed there, crouched, for a full minute. “There,” he pronounced, rubbing his thumb one last time before standing. “Isn’t that better? I just need you to be still.” Before he moved away, he looked into her eyes, not smiling or frowning – just staring. And she couldn’t look away.
Then he slid behind her again, and she heard the razor- The anticipation made her nipples harden and she cast her eyes down into her lap, willing herself not to get quite so turned on. After all, she could be completely misreading the situation. He might genuinely be oblivious to her, might be intent on nothing more than the successful completion of another dull task in his daily routine.
Or he might want to rip off her panties and take her right across the desk.
It was the not knowing that drove Delilah a tiny bit crazy as she sat in the chair, waiting. Seconds, then minutes ticked by and she could hear the slightest noise of his breathing as he stood behind her. She could smell a faint scent of cologne and she was aware of her breath quickening as she tried to stay perfectly still.
Finally, the whisper of air behind her signaled he was ready to begin. She felt the comb tugging softly through her hair, and the metal teeth grazed her neck. Slowly and carefully he combed with one hand, while the other held the shank of her hair firmly between her shoulder blades. He was surprisingly gently, the teeth of the comb light as they raked through each strand. With every stroke, her skin prickled against the coolness of the metal and the firmness of his fingers. Her stomach tightened and she tried to ignore the tiny sparks of heat flaring between her legs.
Words would have relieved the tension, but of course, he didn’t speak; merely continued with this oddly gentle rhythm of metal against hair against skin that was almost hypnotic. Fighting the urge to let her head fall back into his capable hands, and hoping a nap might stave off the dangerous horniness this drug-testing nut was unleashing, Delilah closed her eyes.
“Don’t fall asleep on me.” His voice had lost some of its sharpness, and he sounded – if not amused – then unsurprised. Maybe he was used to lulling unsuspecting hair test takers to sleep. Maybe, if she wasn’t careful she’d wake up in Thailand, bald and missing a kidney. She hoped not. She was fairly sure she could make it with only one kidney, but bald?
Not with these hips.
“Sit up straight, please,” he said, his fingers cool and dry against the back of her neck. “I’m almost done, and I don’t want to make any mistakes.”
Delilah scooted up further against the seat back, pushing her breasts out as she moved. She could feel him breathing behind her, and she heard the catch in his breath when arched her back just enough to make sure he noticed her nipples beneath the thin jersey fabric of her t-shirt. She wore a bra, but a flimsy one – designed more to titillate than to cover.
One last tug of his hand, and her neck stretched backward. He held her hair, twisting it into a coil at her crown. He leaned over, pressing the hair still with his thumb while the fingers of his other hand snipped beneath. She felt a feathery dusting of hair fall across her shoulders. He didn’t move for a moment, just stood there and she could feel the heat of his skin barely an inch from her back. His hand still kept her hair in place, and she had an urge to reach up and grab that hand, slip her fingers between his and pull herself to standing.
Then he sighed and released her hair, letting it fall down around her shoulders.
Disappointed, she sighed, too. What was she thinking? That he would swing her around, throw her down on the desk and tear off her panties?
Yes. Yes, she was thinking that. And he knew it.
The faintly citrusy scent of his cologne drifted by as he stood behind Delilah. The smell, the light, teasing touch of his hands in her hair — she was growing damper by the minute as she debated her options. She could pretend the sexual tension between them was a figment of her imagination, leave with dignity and go home and replay the entire scene with a vibrator. That was option A.
Or … she could take a different approach.
She waited while he took a step away from her chair, walking around to his desk with the prize; the long, brown curls in his hand. He carefully placed them inside a plastic bag, smoothed out the bag to remove any air bubbles and then marked something on the plastic surface with a thick black Sharpie.
Then he raised his eyes to look at Delilah. Those impossibly blue eyes of his, the pupils large and black and bottomless. His face a perfectly chiseled square of white skin, light stubble and lips she wanted to nibble.
She stared back at him, and his eyes flickered. With a decisive moment, he picked up the plastic package and moved it to a shelf above the desk.
Delilah’s eyes locked on his and beneath those inky black brows she saw the pupils begin to dilate and she licked her lips. That was all it took.
In one quick movement, he lunged across the desk and reached for her, at the same time she leapt toward him. He ripped away her t-shirt and his mouth dropped at the sight of her full breasts, barely contained in their lace.
“See something you like,” she murmured and jerked his shirt from his body, popping buttons in the process. His chest, a perfect, pale sculpture of lean, flat muscles, practically begged her to rake her nails down those pecs, those abs.
He tossed her atop the desk in response, yanking at her skirt, plowing through the filmy fabric of her panties, which flew in tiny scraps across the room.
His hands roved over her breasts, those incredibly cool and clever fingers so steady when they were combing her hair, now trembling. The feeling of being wanted shot through Delilah like icy vodka and she wriggled beneath him, thrusting her swollen nipples between his fingertips. “God, that feels good,” she moaned as he rubbed his mouth across her nipples, nipping at the tender flesh until she was dizzy with desire.
“No,” he lifted his head and stared at Delilah, lids flickering over his flashing blue eyes. “No talking.”
“What?” She protested, trying to sit up but he pushed her back against the desk. Pressing one finger against her lips, he shook his head.
“I said, no talking.”
She moaned again, her sex aching and desperate for relief. “Then get your mouth off my fucking tits and put it somewhere else — or you’ll never shut me up.”
A slow, snarky smile spread across his lips and he nodded. Slithering down the length of her body, he lowered his mouth to her navel and she felt the tightening, the pulsing between her already slick thighs. Dotting her skin with soft, barely-there kisses, he stopped as he passed her hips and deftly nudged his shoulders beneath, pushing her up into the air, her lips exposed to his.
“Is this what you wanted,” he whispered, his voice rough.
Delilah twisted, her legs shaking as she groaned, “I thought you said no talking.”
His hot mouth on her soft, wet lips was the only answer. Sucking, nibbling, he slipped his tongue between the cleft. She writhed, helpless as he lifted her higher, savoring her, greedily sucking on the tiny nub that drove her insane.
His fingers held her legs apart, and she was unable to do anything but let him plunder her. Her shoulders twisted and back contorted, wanting him never to stop – but wanting his cock inside her even more. But he wouldn’t stop. That damned devil tongue and his hands, so strong they held her just where he wanted, as if he had all the time in the world to consume her.
“Oh, please, oh please,” she cried out as his tongue plunged further and further, the faint stubble on his chin a tickling contrast to the hot, slippery wetness within.
Grunting almost angrily in reply he shook his head, his mouth hot on her flesh, his tongue curling around her clitoris, teasing it with insistent strokes until she couldn’t do anything except fall back and submit to the pleasure. “Oh GOD,” she screamed at last when the mounting sparks built into something she could not stop and the orgasm seized her in a violent swirl of sensation.