We were the B-Team and we knew it, Madison, Kitty, and I. Other sales teams posted bigger numbers, but we had a solid record. We’d all been with the firm since its inception five years ago. So when Jeff Pint, the VP of Marketing, tapped us to go to Denver for the Western States EMT, Paramedic, and ER Nursing Association Conference at the Colorado Conference Center, we thought it was our big break.
And for the first two days of the three-day convention we were golden. We demonstrated a lot of product and sold a lot of content. Our publishing firm, Kilbride & Parks, Ltd., was the fastest growing North American provider of e-books, interactive software, and tablet content for emergency medicine. We attracted the kind of attention that typical textbook and medical manual publishers didn’t usually get. We gave away flash drives in sexy colors. Every day we drew a business card from a bucket in our booth and the winner got a new iWatch. But on the second evening, as we were packed up our booth for the night our iPhones buzzed in unison. I thought it might be congratulations for all our sales. Until I read the message.
“Kilbride & Parks has been bought out by Elsevier,” I told my coworkers.
“They have their own sales and marketing departments,” Madison moaned, looking up from the same message on her phone. “George, our services are no longer needed.”
“No wonder the guys at the Elsevier booth couldn’t look us in the eye today,” I told my colleagues. “They must have known this was happening.”
“We’re supposed to clean out or desks as soon as we get back,” Kitty said, putting her phone away. “The severance package is available online.”
“So what are we going to do now?” I asked, looking at our booth and the product we had left. “There’s another day left of the conference. Our flight isn’t until tomorrow night.”
“I suppose we come back tomorrow,” Madison suggested, “and just do our job.”
“No!” Kitty said in a voice that got our attention. “Read the message again. We don’t have a job any more. We’re done.”
The message was pretty clear. We were done. Our new bosses were afraid of the damage we might do talking to clients tomorrow. “You can’t blame them,” I told my friends.
“So, George,” Madison sighed, “what do you suggest? Still want to go to the Palace?”
We’d planned on going out for a late night supper at the Palace Arms to celebrate our success. The Palace Arms was an old school, five-star restaurant with top-notch service and eight-course meals. We were each going to contribute our per diem meal allowance and then make up the difference. If we had any spending money left, we were going to Pints Pub for single malt scotch. Now we had nothing to celebrate.
“I suggest we move the stuff over to its new owners,” I told them, motioning to the Elsevier booth was two spots down from us. “No sense in burning bridges.”
“Okay, but then we go back to the hotel and order everything on the room service menu and eat and drink ourselves stupid.” That was a surprising statement coming from Madison. She was a little older than me, mid-thirties. She was divorced, but still naïve. Her father was a Baptist preacher. She’d lost thirty pounds on her latest diet, using willpower and exercise. I’d never seen her drink alcohol.
“That’s the spirit,” Kitty told her. “We can sleep in tomorrow. Order room service omelets and mojitos for breakfast. Check out at the last minute, before we go to the airport for our flight.”
“What about the single malt tasting? Could we at least go to Pints?” I whined.
“Do your know how much that would cost? With no job, I have to watch my pennies,” Madison argued.
“We still get the single malt. Enough to swim in if we want. And it won’t cost us a penny,” Kitty told us.
“And how will that happen?” I asked.
“There’s a great liquor store just down from the hotel. We’ll pop in there.” Kitty pulled out the company credit card we’d been using for expenses. “I consider it part of the severance package.”
“We can’t do that,” Madison told her.
“What are they going to do, fire us?” she asked.
We lugged our inventory down to the Elsevier booth and took a quiet cab ride to the liquor store Kitty had seen. Madison and Kitty each picked a wine, based on the recommendations of a helpful clerk: an Araujo Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Altrgracia 2013 ($146) and a Close Des Papes Blanc 2009 ($129) to go with the food. I picked the bottle of the single malt scotch, a 30-year-old Glenfiddich on sale for just under $400.
“I can’t believe that Sheila in travel didn’t cancel the card when they canned us,” I told my friends as we carried our booty back to the hotel.
“I texted Sheila. She got canned, too,” Kitty said, “and doesn’t give a shit what we charge on the card.”
I carried the liquor through the doorway of their room and set it on the table. Kitty gave me a kiss on the cheek to thank me. “Give us an hour to freshen up,” she said. “Dress for dinner. Then come back. We’ll have everything ready.”
“This is our last evening together,” Madison sighed.
“Then let’s make it a memorable one,” Kitty said in a tone that aroused me. What did she mean by that?
When I returned to the room an hour later, Madison opened the door. “You look amazing!” I told her. She was attractive, even before she lost the weight, but diet and exercise had firmed her curves, flattened her stomach, and lifted her breasts. She wore black high heels, silver nylons, a full black skirt that ended an inch above her knees, a sliver shell, and a black sweater jacket. The shell was scooped to reveal her cleavage. Around her neck was a rope of silver beads. “Very sexy.”
“Sexy?” she asked. I nodded while she blushed. “No one’s ever called me sexy.” Madison and Kitty had gone shopping the night before without me. Now I knew why. I’d always thought that Madison had designs on me. She motioned me in. “You’re all dressed up, too,” she told me as I walked into the room. I was wearing the only suit I had with me. They’d seen it a hundred times before. She added, “Nice slacks.”
“Slacks, hell,” Kitty said. “Nice butt.”
When I saw Kitty, instant erection. She, too, had black heels, but hers were stilettos. Her nylons were dark and seamed. Her tight black skirt hugged her hips and barely covered the tops of her nylons. A flimsy shawl draped over her showers and a silver chain wrapped around her waist. Her blouse was delicate, almost transparent, revealing a cream colored camisole underneath. I could see the outlines of her nipples. “Wow.” That was all I could think to say. I watched Madison crumble. I’d just told both women who was the sexiest one in the room.
For various reasons, none of us was dating anyone at the moment. Definitely not each other. It was hard not to be attracted to Kitty or Madison, but we worked together every day. We’d become friends, like brother and sisters. But now, officially, we were no longer partners. And neither woman dressed like my sister.
I caught myself staring. I blinked, and then turned my attention to a cart by the window with the room service food. Madison and Kitty took turns striking a pose, then lifting the lid off a dish. “Lobster roll served on a fresh-baked brioche bun with bacon dressing,” Madison announced proudly.
They’d already started on the wine, two empty glasses on either side of the table, and Kitty was holding a third. “An antipasto assortment with dried fruit, four artisan cheeses, almonds, olives, La Quercia prosciutto, fig jam, and grilled bread,” she said, removing the cover with a flourish.
“Toll House chocolate chunk cookies.”
“Mini-Italian sausage lasagnas, with a side of marinara sauce.”
“Jumbo shrimp cocktails.”
“A fresh fruit plate with raspberry sorbet. I’m afraid it’s already starting to melt.”
“Buffalo wings, BBQ wings, and Hawaiian wings.”
“A dessert sampler with cream puffs and cupcakes.”
“We ordered three glasses of wine, too,” Madison explained, “so we could get three glasses. They also brought up a corkscrew, which we have to pay for if we don’t return it.” She wobbled a little, even though she’d only had one glass. “I think I need to eat something.”
I opened the white wine, the Close Des Papes Blanc. We raised our glasses and clinked. “Let the evening commence,” Kitty purred.
Madison filled her tiny plate with a lobster roll and an assortment of wings, two pieces of cheese, and some olives. “I’ll pay for this on the scale tomorrow.”
Kitty inhaled the fragrance of the wine, gently swirling the honey colored liquid under her nose. She sipped again. “Floral. Fruity.”
I caught her eye and motioned conspiratorially toward Madison. “And 13% alcohol.”
I sat down on the beds facing the two women as we sipped our wine, and emptied our plates, going back for seconds. We talked about work: our prospects for a new job, the surprisingly generous severance package, the messages from others in the firm also terminated. Our eating slowed.
When I opened the second bottle of wine, the Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Altrgracia, no one thought anything of the price. None of us had ever paid more than $20 for a bottle of wine. We got giddy. We relaxed. We were friends, enjoying an evening together.
“I’m stuffed,” Kitty said, finally setting her plate on the nightstand.
“That’s why I insisted we save the dessert for later,” Madison boasted proudly. “Room service has fifteen types of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream,” she told me. “Anyone bring a deck of cards?”
“Actually,” Kitty said, “I have a game we could play.” She tried to say it casually, but it didn’t come out that way at all. There was a tension in her voice that surprised me. “I found it at a little shop in the mall last night.”
While Kitty retrieved the game from a shopping bag in the closet, Madison and I sat facing each other. She became self-conscious when she realized that her skirt had ridden up, exposing the tops of her silver nylons. She hurriedly tugged at it and clamped her legs together. “You look beautiful tonight,” I told her softly.
She blushed. “Thank you.”
“There’s more of the wine if you’d like?”
Madison shook her head. “I think I need to stop.”
Kitty came back and sat down on the bed next to Madison. She placed the game box in the space between them. It was a bright yellow box with bold black lettering: Tinderbox Truth or Dare: Adults Only. “Oh, my!” was all Madison could think to say. “I’m not sure I know this game.”
“Well, Sweetie, it’s this or the Bible Trivia set you bought for your brother.” Kitty had a hand on her hip. “You told me you wanted to step out of your comfort zone. This will do that. But you’ll still be safe here with friends.”
“How do you play?” Madison finally asked.
“We each take a turn. When it’s your turn you can decide if you want to do the truth or a dare. Then you either draw a truth card and answer the question, or a dare card and do what it says. There are separate cards for men and women, and some unisex cards.”
Kitty looked over to me and then back to Madison. “Because there are just three of us, I suggest we modify the rules slightly.”
“Let’s say it’s George’s turn. He says, ‘Dare.’ You, Madison, would pull three dare cards from the male stack and pick the dare you want him to do. Next time it’s his turn, I get to pull the cards and decide.” The whole time Kitty was talking she was unwrapping the game cards. “And to keep it interesting, you can’t do more than two of the same type of card in a row.”
Madison picked up the women’s Truth cards and started reading them softly aloud, one after another. “‘What is the nastiest thing you’ve ever thought about doing, but didn’t do?’ ‘Have you ever been spanked by someone other than a parent? Who and why?’ ‘Who or what do you think about when you masturbate?’” She looked up at Kitty. “I don’t masturbate.”
A smile slowly spread over Kitty’s face. “Well, that would be for George and I to decide.”
“What do you mean?”
“When someone answers a Truth card, the other players decide if that person is being honest. So if you told us you never masturbate, we might believe you or we might not.”
“But I’m telling the truth.”
“We might decide you’re lying,” I said firmly.
Madison turned to me. “Then what happens?”
“You forfeit an article of clothing.”
I picked up one of the male Truth cards. “‘If you could add 4 inches to your penis or 4 inches to your height, what would you choose?’ ‘Who gave you your first blowjob? Describe it.’ ‘What’s the dirtiest thing you’ve ever done at work? Why did you do it?’”
“Oh, my.” Madison’s skirt had risen up again and her legs had spread slightly apart and she caught me staring, but didn’t close her legs? “Is there any wine left?”
“You don’t have to do this.” Kitty got up and poured a little wine for each of us. “But you know what we talked about last night. How you needed to be more open to new experiences?” She finished the bottle off with a generous portion in Madison’s glass.
“I can do it.” She sipped the wine. “I want to do this.” She nodded her head in affirmation. “It will be fun.”
“Maybe you should look at some of the dare cards before you decide,” I suggested.
Madison set down the glass and picked up the dare cards. “Lick whipped cream off another female’s breasts.”
I liked the sound of that one. I saw Kitty glance at the cream puffs on the table and imagined her smearing the filling over Madison’s breasts and then licking her nipples clean.
Madison picked up another card. “Drop your pants and ask someone of the opposite sex to spank you.” She blushed. To avoid eye contact with me, she grabbed another card. “Play with yourself for two minutes using a sex toy or vibrator.” She shook her head. “I don’t own a vibrator.”
“I’ve got one I can loan you,” Kitty offered. “Never out of the package.”
Madison shook her head again. “I couldn’t do it.”
“Well,” I said brightly, “you wouldn’t have to.”
“No,” Kitty explained. “You could just forfeit, and remove an article of clothing.”
“I’m afraid I’d be naked very quickly with this game.”
“And would that be so bad?” Kitty asked softly.
The three of us sat silently for a moment and finished our glasses of wine. One by one we set the empty glasses on the bedside table. “Let’s play,” Madison finally said, and we all exhaled in unison.
“I can go first,” Kitty offered.
“No, it had better be me or I’ll lose my nerve,” Madison said resolutely. “George, you pick the cards.”
“Truth or Dare I?” I asked.
I drew three cards. One asked about phone sex, the second related to animals, I went with the third one. “When was the first time you saw a porn movie? Did you watch it with someone?”
Madison hiccupped. Followed by a giggle. “That’s too easy.” She got up and went over to the table, and grabbed the last two shrimp. “Last night with Kitty.” Madison slathered the shrimp in red sauce and ate them without bothering to put them on a plate.
“Is that true?” I asked Kitty.
“Based on some things she said last night, I suspect it is.” Madison shrugged.
I realized she was even more innocent than I thought. If I wanted to see her without so many clothes on, I needed to find a card she’d lie about. “Your turn, Kitty?”
“Sure. Hit me with the Truth.”
Madison drew three cards. She immediately discarded two of them. “What’s the dirtiest thing you ever did at work? Why did you do it?”
“Jeff Pint fucked me doggy style in the Executive Washroom.” Kitty looked over to me struggling to contain my erection, and she grinned. “Maybe we should skip to the harder questions?”
“You have a key to the Executive Washroom?” I asked amazed.
“No, but Jeff does. Duh.”
Madison pointed to the last part of the question. “Why did you do it?”
Kitty seemed taken aback, like she’d forgotten about the last part of the question. “Don’t want to answer that question. Guess I have to pay the forfeit.” She stood up, reached to the side of her tiny back skirt, undid the small black button at the waist and lowered the zipper. She slid the skirt down her legs revealing pink lace panties and a pick garter belt attached to her dark nylons. She stood there while we stared.
“Why didn’t you just take off your shawl?” Madison asked, but she knew why. She saw the effect Kitty had on me just standing there. I suppose she wondered what would happen when the Dares began.
“You’re up next George. Truth or dare,” Kitty asked.
Kitty pulled three cards and discarded one immediately. She showed the remaining two to Madison.
“Oh, I want George to answer this one,” Madison told her. Her voice had begun to slur. She was having a little trouble focusing. The alcohol was kicking in.
Kitty read the card. “‘Have you ever exposed yourself to anyone? Who? When? Where?’”
“Liar!” Kitty said. I don’t think she disbelieved me. I think she just wanted to force a vote and remove some of my clothes.
“But I almost did.” I looked at Madison. I knew she wanted to agree with Kitty so I might lose my pants, but I was telling the truth. “I wish I had,” I added.
It was probably something in my facial expression that stopped her from siding with Kitty. “What do you mean?” Madison asked. I knew I could convince her. I explained.
“Toward of my marriage to Heather, our sex life was in the crapper. So I was surprised one day when she told me, ‘Let’s play strip Scrabble.’ I didn’t know the game. My wife got out her Pampered Chef timer as she explained. ‘Every seven minutes, I take off a piece of clothing.’”
“And nothing. Every seven minutes she lost a shoe or a belt or blouse or bra until the game was over or she was naked, whichever came first. We played at the dining room table and usually had sex on the couch in the living room. She closed the drapes before we started playing. I, of course, got really distracted and so always lost.”
“She liked beating you,” Kitty offered, “even when it wasn’t a competition.”
“Yes. But I got sex. Pretty good sex at first. Later, after a few times, she got bored with the game.”
I got up and opened the single malt scotch. I found a tumbler and added some ice. I poured myself a generous shot. “But the last time we played, when I went over to close the curtains, she told me, ‘Leave them open, but turn off the lamp.’ That left the living room in relative darkness, but the dining room lit with the chandelier. Someone driving by could look in the picture window and see us sitting at the dining room table just beyond the darkness. It wasn’t like we were flashing in the window, but it didn’t hide much either. ‘You need to take something off, too, ‘ she said. ‘Same as me, every seven minutes.’”
“What happened?” Maidson was excited by the prospect.
“I got down to my boxers.” I looked over to Kitty. “That’s why I said I almost exposed myself.”
“What stopped you?” she asked.
“Well, it was Heather’s turn. When her timer sounded she started to take her bra off. That’s when a car driving by honked. I looked out the window and noticed a blue Chevy Impala had parked across the street and was idling. The driver sat in the darkened car, watching us. I walked over to the window and closed the curtained. When I turned back Heather was gathering up her clothes. ‘Putz, ‘ she said. And she went up to bed and never let me touch her again.”
“Do you think she knew the person in the car?” Madison asked. “Do you think she set the whole thing up?”
“Why else would she go to all that trouble?” I said, and I could tell that Kitty agreed.
“It doesn’t sound like fun to me,” Madison said defensively.
“I was never about fun. It was about power,” Kitty explained to her. “Maybe if George had left the curtains open and had exposed himself along with her, they’d still be married.”
“No. That would never have been enough to satisfy her.” I looked at the two women. “So, then you agree. I’m telling the truth.”
“God, no,” Kitty told me, “I stand by my first answer.”
“I agree,” Madison said. “You may have left your boxers on, but you still flashed everyone driving by.” She seemed pretty smug about it. “You have to take something off now.”
“All right.” I started unbuttoning my shirt.
“No,” Madison said firmly. “Kitty took her skirt off. I think you owe us your pants.”
“But I won’t be able to take them off without taking off my shoes, too.”