“You have no idea how much trouble you're in.” His tone held none of the subversive humor that typically colored their private exchanges.
She swallowed thickly as he stopped in front of her. Even at his most relaxed, she found his presence intimidating, but the way he loomed over her now made her weak in the knees. The notion their relationship could be anything more than professional should never have entered her mind, no matter the temptation.
“I can explain.” Her eyes darted around the room in search of an escape she knew didn't exist.
“Your office. Now,” he ordered, grabbing her laptop in one hand and her wrist with the other.
Even though she was horrified, his warm fingers wrapped around her wrist thrilled her. The pull she fought ignited, flashing across her skin like fire. And then she remembered this might be the end of her career. He propelled her into the library office and dropped the laptop on her desk. He released her wrist and shut the door, turning the lock.
“Do you have any idea—” His eyes blazed, the words cut short as he tugged at his tie. Liese watched nervously as he paced the room, his head down, fingers gripping the back of his neck, jaw working as he ground his teeth together. She couldn't begin to imagine what he would do if he saw some of the other images she’d saved.
He gestured to the laptop. “What the hell was that?”
Liese jumped, a squeaky sound came out of her, and she clapped a hand over her mouth. Ryder rarely raised his voice.
It would be in her best interest not to reveal that her best friend had created a series of photoshopped pictures of the two of them in compromising positions. She also thought it wise not to say anything about the folder she’d created to store them, or how they fed her unhealthy infatuation with him. Or how they functioned as her primary source of masturbatory material.
“It was mostly a joke,” she mumbled.
“Do you think this is funny?” He looked incredulous as he towered over her, but his voice was smooth silk. Livid though he was, the tension between them pulsed like shock waves through the air.
“Not particularly, no,” Liese replied, refusing to look away for fear of appearing weak, or guilty. If she could maintain a facade of self-righteous indignation, maybe he wouldn't touch her laptop again. In her peripheral vision, Liese noted the way his hands continued to clench and unclench at his sides.
“Where did that picture come from? Are there more?”
Much to her dismay, his palm settled on the laptop.
“I really wouldn't—”
Ryder ignored her half-made request and flipped it open. It only took a few seconds for the screen to flicker to life and the advertisement to pop up. The gif played in a loop, the vigorous pumping continuing endlessly.
Liese sighed. “I don't think there's a way to explain this without it sounding incredibly bad.”
She buried her face in her hands and wished she could disappear as Ryder began to inspect the advertisement. Liese peeked through her fingers to watch him lean forward, hands splayed on either side of the laptop. Ryder squinted at the image, and then looked her over. His eyes moved down her body and back up, tracking her with an expression that bordered on predatory. Satisfied fascination knotted Liese’s stomach as the change took place: the undeniable draw she’d kept in check all this time echoed in his eyes. Some invisible line had been crossed, and Liese doubted she’d be able to return to the safety of the other side—the side where she pretended the attraction was all in her head.
“Please tell me that's not you.” A note of aggression lent a sharp and bitter tang to the words. His fingers flexed against the desk, the tips turning white with pressure.
“It's not my body,” Liese whispered, shaking her head.
“You're quite sure about that?”
“Is that so?” He quirked an eyebrow, relief relaxed the tense line of his jaw. Ryder inspected the scene, apparently no longer fazed by the naked, gyrating bodies now that he knew she hadn't made a porno and pasted his head on her previous partner. Ryder minimized the picture, allowing a series of folders to pop up on the screen.
“I'm sorry, sir.” Liese uncrossed her legs, smoothing her skirt over her thighs. He followed the movement with his eyes. She prayed he wasn't propositioning her as a means to sink the final nail into the coffin of her career, but that the months of pretending the attraction between them didn’t exist had finally come to an end. “I'm not sure I understand.” God, she hoped they were done pretending.
“You're an intelligent woman, Liese. I'm sure you can figure it out.”
She remained silent, trying to ascertain her position. Tucking her chin in, she looked up at him demurely. “So, to paraphrase,” she began in a conspiratorial whisper, “you'd like to have dinner with me so I can tell you about my masturbation habits? Would that be accurate, sir?”
Ryder's eyes widened, evidently not expecting her to be quite so forthright. “When you put it that way—”
“It sounds inappropriate?”
“Everything that's happened between us today has been inappropriate.”
Ryder raised his hand to cut her off. “Don't misunderstand me. While I am very aware this is a dangerous path to take, I seem to have lost my ability to give a fuck. And after finding this—” He rose from the chair, gesturing to the laptop. “—I admit I would like to procure several of the other items available on this site. But I have to assume some may already be in your possession, rendering such purchases unnecessary. Again, we could discuss the items you do have as well, if you’d like.”
Liese blinked dumbly at him.
“Sorry, I ramble when I get excited. Of course, you already know that.” He leaned forward, his hands flat on the desk, the tick below his left eye belying his nervousness.
“I really don't know what to say,” Liese replied. Her initial response was to jump at the opportunity, considering she’d been thinking about doing that very thing for ages. But the potential repercussions gave her pause. “Do you often proposition women this way?”
“Do you often doctor pornographic images of your superiors?” he shot back.
Liese rose from her chair, her eyes narrowed as she processed his body language. “Are you trying to blackmail me into fucking you?”
“Do you want to fuck me?”
The question sent a wave of heat through her body. “Do you want to fuck me?” she retorted, because she’d be damned if she was going to admit it first. The time she’d spent dissecting his every glance and touch had driven her insane. The connection between them wasn't in her head, and he should be the one to confirm it.
“Yes, very much, actually.”
“How very naughty of you,” he slipped his pinkie under the garter and pulled, only to let it snap back against her thigh. Mouth covering hers, he swallowed her shocked protest. Ryder's palms smoothed along the inside of her thigh, his fingertips grazing the edge of her panties. She felt the feather-light brush of his knuckle right where the ache was deadliest.
Liese whimpered, her body jerking with the contact, desperate for the feel of his hands on her without the inconvenient obstruction of clothing.
“Shh.” His lips brushed over hers, and his thumb slipped beneath the elastic. “We wouldn't want anyone to think you enjoy your meetings with me. What if people got the wrong idea? Then I might have to discipline you for your indiscretions.”
“We wouldn't want that.” Liese bit back a nervous laugh, uncertain whether to take him seriously. Something told her he meant it when he said he would discipline her, and she might very well enjoy being on the receiving end.
“Speak for yourself. I think I'd rather enjoy handing out a punishment where you're concerned.” Ryder's hand tightened in her hair as his lips traveled along her jaw, drawing out the sweetest of tortures. He pushed aside her panties, finger sweeping over the smooth skin.
Liese couldn't help it; she moaned, parting her legs further in encouragement.
Ryder stopped, both his fingers and mouth stilled. “What did I just tell you?” His teeth pressed softly against the juncture of her shoulder and neck, an erotic warning.
“Sorry, sir.” She draped her arms over his shoulders and fingered the hair at the nape of his neck—a weak attempt to draw his attention away from her inability to follow direction and keep quiet.
“I really shouldn't do this.” His lips parted against her throat, and his tongue swept along her skin.
“Please.” Liese feared Ryder's conscience would catch up with his actions, and he would remember just how much trouble being together like this could cause. She chose to bury that knowledge, along with her better judgment, when she trailed her hands down his chest to his belt.
“Tell me what you want,” he said.
Supplication merged with abject longing, and Ryder's fingers twitched, a reminder of how close they were to a place she wanted them to go, but shouldn't. Regardless, she didn't want him to stop.
With shaking hands, she answered the question with actions: grasping his belt buckle, she unhooked the clasp.
His breath fanned over her cheek on a warm sigh. Ryder's fingers moved lower. “You have no idea how difficult it's been,” he whispered as he kissed his way over her cheek to the corner of her mouth. At the same time he circled, teased, and then suddenly pushed inside, his fingers curled, sensation radiating from the center of her body to consume her in a flash fire of desire.
Liese inhaled a high-pitched gasp, heedless of Ryder's warning to stay quiet. She couldn't get enough of him, of his body close to hers, of his fingers moving inside her. He pushed her closer to a precipice she hadn't been anywhere near in a very long time, at least not with another person.
She fumbled with the fly on his pants, wanting to touch him as he touched her. In her haste, the button popped off and ricocheted off the desk, bouncing onto the floor.
Ryder broke the kiss and looked to where she held the waistband of his pants together. “These are expensive pants, and I don't sew,” he told her.
Liese wanted to laugh at his seriousness juxtaposed with the way he caressed her body. “Would you like me to sew it back on right now?” She slid her finger beneath the elastic band at his waist, dipping into his boxers until she grazed something smooth and hard and pretty damn sizable.
His eyes closed, jaw tightening and nostrils flaring. On a deep inhale he opened lust-heavy lids to watch her. “No, I was just stating a fact. I also find it incredibly hot that you'd be willing to sew it back on immediately.”
“I was being sarcastic.”