Worth It
Chapter 1

Caution: This Romantic Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Consensual, Heterosexual, DomSub, MaleDom, Rough, Light Bond, Oral Sex, Slow,

Desc: Romantic Sex Story: Chapter 1 - Topher and Allegra have both had to work hard to carve out just a little place where they belong. What are the odds that they belong together?

Topher's last full day at NationComm ended at four. He'd come in an hour early to justify leaving now. For the last eight months, he'd been on site from nine in the morning to five at night or later, five days a week. Even though he'd done roughly one hour of work today, he'd stayed at or near his borrowed desk until now. If he was going to bill eight hours, he would be on-site for eight hours even though his last timesheet had been signed since the day before yesterday.

He'd left his laptop home today, knowing he wouldn't need it. As the clock ticked the last few minutes of the hour, he slid his e-book reader into his empty laptop bag. He rifled through the pages of his pad, making sure there was nothing that could be considered NationComm's property written in there before he slid it into the bag.

Next, he sorted through the pens in the desk, removing the two with the URL of his consulting company printed on them and placing them in his bad. He smiled to himself, remembering how he'd had them printed on a lark. Topher was very particular about his office supplies. The pad, the pens, the spiral-bound notebooks and binders he'd already brought home, he'd bought them all for himself. If he could help it, he never used the office supplies a client provided. Provided by the lowest bidder, they were often flimsy and unreliable. A twenty-five cent pen could interrupt the flow of a million-dollar idea.

Besides, Topher was always afraid that, if he wrote something down on a client's paper with a client's pen, some judge might be convinced that it was therefore the client's idea. His idea written with his pen on his paper would have a much clearer provenance.

He'd expressed that fear only once - to a woman his sister-in-law had set him up with. First, she'd argued that the idea was ridiculous and illogical. Topher had readily agreed. The idea was just as ridiculous and illogical as the law itself. He had no faith in the legal system to come within shouting distance of common sense.

Once he'd said that, the woman - Carol or Karen or something like that - had accused him of megalomania for thinking that anyone was out to steal his ideas. When he'd repeated this to his friend Estrella, she'd stated that it sounded more like paranoia mixed with egomania. Topher had considered that and decided that none of the terms applied. He didn't believe that people were out to steal his ideas. He didn't expect to ever wind up in court arguing over the esoterica of intellectual property and the provenance thereof. His attitude was based on the nature of his work. Whatever the final product - whether it be a web site, a back office billing system, or a custom reporting engine, what he was really selling his clients were his ideas. They were his only currency and he protected them like they were money in the bank.

He drew out a pen again and rolled it between his fingers, the URL printed white on black. The body was lacquered with a rubber grip and thicker than most client-supplied pens, though not the thickest he'd seen.

The first time he'd seen the model, it had a different logo on it. He'd received it as swag at a training seminar, called the company, and eventually gotten the information about the vendor and model. He had fond memories of a long weekend spent building the website at the end of that URL after ordering two gross of the pens just in case anyone typed in the address.

That had been ten years ago. He'd been an independent consultant with two hundred eighty-eight pens. Now, he had fourteen consultants working for him and just over a hundred pens left.

He looked up at the clock. It had ticked over to 4:03. Topher rose, sliding the bag onto his shoulder. As he walked out of the office, no one looked up or said goodbye. There had been no going-away cake like employees got. It might be because he wasn't really going to be gone. He was leaving two junior developers here, writing the code to implement his ideas. If they got too far off track, he'd come back for a day or two to set them right.

Or it might just be because Topher hadn't really made any friends at NationComm. He was friendly with many of his coworkers, but there wasn't one person in the engineering department he ever expected to see socially after today.

He checked his bag, making sure it was zipped shut as he waited for the elevator. He'd left an hour earlier than normal because there was one person he did hope to see after leaving here and he thought this might be his last chance to talk to her on the job.

As he rode down to six, he reviewed the plan he'd laid out in anticipation of this conversation. One of the details worried him. The location was ridiculous, but better than talking to her in front of everyone or trying to contrive some ridiculous "chance meeting" so they could talk privately.

On the sixth floor, he stepped into the document-processing area and stepped into the supervisor's office. The sixth floor had only one office and two conference rooms. The remainder of the floor was open with lines of desks populated mostly by women, most of whom were young. Topher always found the atmosphere oppressive, the ceilings imperceptibly lower, the overhead lights not quite reaching the floor.

After a brief conversation with the supervisor, Topher stepped into one of the empty conference rooms. When Allegra joined him a few minutes later, he instinctively rose and shook her hand, asking her to take a seat. She did, tucking her skirt underneath her and keeping her eyes on him the whole time. Topher glanced away. He'd watched her through the room's glass walls as she walked up the long aisle of desks. Tall and sleek, she moved with a casual grace that accentuated the wrongness of the room.

When he looked back, he saw Allegra studying him thoughtfully. Their position relative to each other at NationComm was maddeningly vague. Neither was an employee with a defined place on the org chart. The only real indication was that the man who signed Allegra's timesheets answered to the man who signed Topher's and had been known to do what Topher asked him to on occasion.

Still, they were both temps of a sort. Allegra had been Topher's go-to when he needed to talk to a "typical user" of NationComm's document management system even though there was nothing typical about her. She was remarkably efficient and serious-minded at first, never cracking a smile. Only after repeated meetings had she started to laugh at his jokes and even displayed a wicked sense of humor of her own. Unlike a typical user, she'd clearly thought a lot about her job and how it could be done more efficiently. She'd come up with a number of the ideas in Topher's design spec and, if she was still working at NationComm in a year, would be one of the primary beneficiaries of the improvements made.

But, the design spec was done. They'd had their last meeting a week ago. She had no duties that touched on Topher's in any way. There would be no logical reason for this meeting.

Realizing this, he said without preamble, "I'm leaving NationComm today. I'd like to see you again. Would you meet me for dinner this Friday?"

Allegra tilted her head like a cat faced with a new puzzle, blonde hair cascading down over one shoulder. She had often surprised Topher with her perspective on the world and he realized he had no idea what she would do or say next. He found himself holding his breath as she considered him.

"That depends," she said. "Are you asking me on a date?"

Topher almost said no. He didn't feel ready to ask Allegra on a date. He'd been hoping for something along the lines of a friendly consultation on the question of whether she would be amenable to a date. He wanted more information before he risked rejection. He was reasonably sure she was single, but she was twelve years younger than him. She had more education. Even if he accepted his sister-in-law's assurances that he was a "good catch," Allegra was still more attractive than him. And, she was a woman. All relationships between a man and a woman had to first bridge that built-in gap.

Still, he knew that people had found his cautious approach off-putting. Afraid he was losing any chance of being friends with Allegra if she turned him down for this, he said, "Yes. I'm asking you on a date."

Allegra drew her hair back from her face, gripping it behind her in one hand like she was about to tie it back, then let it drop. "Before I say yes, there are some things you need to know. Maybe we should meet after work and discuss them."

Topher raised an eyebrow, "Like a pre-date consultation?"

Allegra nodded. "I like you, Topher. I just don't date casually and I don't want to lead you on. How about we meet for coffee at BTDT at five thirty?"

"Sounds good." Topher did his best to hide his relief. "I'll meet you there."

Bean There, Done That was a little coffee shop tucked underneath a bookstore specializing in mystery novels. Topher wasn't sure how either stayed in business in the era of Amazon and Starbucks, but they had good coffee and a steady clientele. He went there directly to wait for Allegra's shift to end, choosing a seat near the window so he might have some warning she was approaching.

Once he'd convinced his contacts at NationComm it was time to hand off his work to more junior developers,. Topher had decided that it was time for him to finally take a vacation. The last time he'd gone on one, he'd still been in high school. There had been trips for work, but he rarely saw more than hotels and offices on those.

Taking out his reader, he opened its browser and found a travel site. He needed to narrow down his choices - domestic or international? Did he want to go to a beach or maybe just get away from people?

He didn't get far, keeping one eye on the door the whole time, mostly just grazing links to places that might be interesting. When Allegra walked in the door, he still hadn't narrowed his choices down by much. He could imagine himself in any number of places, but it could just as easily be Colorado as Cordova.

She'd changed out of her work clothes in favor of a navy green tank and blue jeans, more casual, but showing her figure to better advantage. As she approached the table, she was smiling broadly. Allegra had a beautiful smile, made all the more appealing by its relative rarity.

As much as Topher liked Allegra's smile, he knew that smiles could be slippery things. As a teenager, he'd realized that he lacked the instinctive mappings his peers made between people's facial expressions and their moods and set out to make a systematic study of the subject. People smiled for so many reasons. There were happy smiles and smiles meant to cover what you were really feeling. People smiled because they were nervous or uncomfortable. They smiled to apologize. Even now, having carried the mappings in his head for twenty years, the subtle difference between smiles could still trip him up.

He rose and took her outstretched hand. After a brief exchange of body language, he leaned in and kissed her on the cheek. She'd redone her makeup - as subtle as she wore at work, but subtly different too.

She placed her bag on a spare chair and sat. Leaning forward, she interlaced her fingers and held her hands to one cheek, holding that pose for a long moment as she considered him like she'd never actually seen him before. Topher accepted her attention, waiting for her to speak.

She seemed to be waiting for him as well. She broke the silence. "So, you want to date me. How should we do this?"

Topher traced a finger along the edge of his coffee mug. He'd learned to consider his words carefully at what he considered pivotal moments and this felt like it qualified. "And you say there

are things I need to know before I ask you out." He lifted his coffee cup. "I thought I would leave the agenda up to you tonight."

"All right." Allegra took a deep breath and her smile shifted. Topher realized she was nervous about this meeting, too. She glanced back into the shop before going on. "After my last relationship, I promised myself that I was going to follow some rules about who I let into my life on more than a superficial level. The rules aren't fair and they don't make my life particularly easy. But, they're what I need to be happy. The first rule is that I don't date casually."

Topher nodded thoughtfully. Allegra sounded faintly sad, but resolute. He put his cup down to give her his full attention. "How does that work out in practice?"

A fraction of tension Topher hadn't noticed went out of Allegra's shoulders. "When I date at all, I take it slowly. I need to know that we're going to be friends before I allow intimacy into a relationship. I don't make a lot of friends and I've turned down most people who've asked me out because I already knew we would never be friends. If you're just looking to go out with a pretty girl and have a good time, there are much better choices out there."

Topher nodded, adjusting his expectations as she spoke. He understood dimly that this speech might be off-putting to a lot of people, but he suspected that was part of the point. Her comment about turning down most of the people who asked her out suggested she had a lot of suitors, which didn't surprise him. She was certainly pretty enough to mistake her for the girl next door if you never noticed or got past the polite distance she kept between herself and most people.

He wasn't put off. He was more intrigued than ever. Most of the people Topher knew seemed to have no idea what they wanted and often seemed to work to sabotage their own happiness. Besides, it sounded like a sensible policy. He asked, "If we get to the point that we're friends, but don't want to proceed, will we really be friends? I like you, Allegra. I don't like a lot of people. If it makes more sense for this to not be a date, just a way to keep in touch with each other, we should do that instead."

Allegra considered him for a moment before shaking her head. "I'm glad you asked me on a date. If we'd met for dinner - just as friends, I think the question of dating would have always been there." She pushed a stray hair back from her face. "I make so few new friends, I imagine the question will always be on my mind until it's resolved one way or the other."

Topher wondered at the statement, but would apparently have a lot of time to ask Allegra about it since she wanted to go slowly. He sat back, calculating. "I'm planning a vacation in about a month. How slowly is slowly?"

"Five dates," said Allegra with a definite nod.

Topher pulled out his phone from his bag and checked his calendar. "That might be tight. If I leave a month from now, that gives us four weekends and the last Saturday, I've already agreed to go see my nephew's Little League game in New Jersey." He raised an eyebrow. "What if I turn out to be a remarkably uncomplicated person?"

Allegra grinned, more tension easing out of her pose. "That seems unlikely, but the number is based on how long it will take for you to get to know me - not the other way around. You need time to decide if you really want to date me."

Later, it would occur to Topher than most men probably would have said something reassuring at that point. Instead, he nodded and looked back at his phone. "Does tonight count as a date?"

Allegra shook her head. "I need to leave for yoga soon. There's not enough time tonight to really talk." She'd drawn out her own phone and considered it now. "Can we do at least one date on a Tuesday night? I work Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Wednesday is like a mini-weekend for me."

Topher nodded. Today was a sharp dividing line on his calendar with everything before it full of meetings, planning sessions, scrums, and the like. Going forward, it was wide open. "I'll probably have some work to do, but I don't need to be in an office any specific day this month."

Allegra tapped something on her screen and began thumb-typing. "If it gets close, I'd be willing to consider a Little League game for our fifth date."

"I don't know," Topher said slowly. "I'm not sure it's to my benefit to have you making decisions about me after sitting on a hard bleacher for a couple of hours."

Allegra gave him a surprisingly saucy smile. "If we get to the fifth date, I'll have already chosen to be with you. It's for you to decide if you really want to be with me."

Topher raised an eyebrow. "Has anybody really gotten that far and walked away?"

She shook her head. "Nobody's gotten than far at all. Nobody's gotten past the third date."

Topher considered that for a moment, wondering if Allegra's standards would just be impossible to meet. When he didn't speak, she reached across the table, resting her hand on the back of his, her touch sending an odd thrill up his arm. "I know it's a lot. But I promise, if we're compatible with each other, it will be worth it."

He enveloped her hand between both of his and met her eyes. He had no trouble believing that finding a woman who could make him happy and he could make happy in return would be worth the effort she'd described. Somewhere along the line, he'd stopped finding the time to date at all. He'd been serious when he told Allegra he didn't like many people. While he'd learned to be friendly, to react to social cues, and to blend in with normal people, he would always be among them, not of their tribe.

Allegra didn't draw his hand away or break his gaze while he considered her. Instead, she traced along the back of his hand with a fingertip, contemplating him back. Topher wanted to know this young woman, to understand what had led her to create her specific set of rules and to hold the world at arm's length. Something about him had made her start to think that she didn't have to lump him in with the rest of the world and she'd shown him flashes of warmth, humor, and wit most people would never have suspected were there. Acknowledging her touch, he traced down her middle finger.

"So, what do you think?" Allegra asked. "Should we give this a try?"

Topher realized he hadn't answered the central question to their discussion at the same moment he realized it was still a question. He'd said he wanted to date Allegra and everything she'd said had reinforced his desire to do so. He nodded. "Do you like Cajun food?"

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Story tagged with:
Ma/Fa / Consensual / Heterosexual / DomSub / MaleDom / Rough / Light Bond / Oral Sex / Slow /