Kim and Casey left lunch early just like they always did. The office where I worked was three blocks closer to the restaurant where we had lunch every Wednesday, so I was always the one who ended up with the bill and the tip. At least this time they had left enough money for their share.
I was busy calculating the tip when I saw the man and woman approaching out of the corner of my eye. I paid no attention to them, however, until they stopped beside the table.
"Is there a prob—" I started to say. "Oh my God."
"Carly Stewart?" the guy asked.
Unable to speak, I simply nodded. She was my height, a willowy brunette with a shock of gray in her dark brown hair. He was tall and thin, with a crooked smile and laughing eyes. My own eyes flicked from him to her, observing only that they looked a little older, a little less made up, perhaps, than they did on their award-winning television show.
"My name is—" he began.
"Oh, my God, I know you." I finally found my voice. "Stacy and Clinton, from TLC's 'What Not to Wear.' Oh my God. I love your show. How you do all those makeovers with the clothes and the hair and the makeup. Wait a minute. You can't be serious. I don't dress that badly."
He and Stacy looked at each other and raised their eyebrows.
"Seriously," I continued. "I can't believe one of my friends would have nominated me for your show. It wasn't that skank Meredith, was it?"
Stacy and Clinton laughed.
"And where's the big surprise party?" I demanded. The show always started with a surprise gathering of the "victim's" friends.
"We usually don't film those until the end," Clinton assured me. "After you agree to be on the show. Then we just splice it back together so it looks like it does on TV. Don't worry; it'll look like a surprise. But we do have the credit card for you. Five thousand dollars. And the trip to New York. Although you do have to shop by our rules, of course."
"And give you my wardrobe, of course," I said with a laugh. "I know. Of course I'll agree. When do we get started?"
Stacy pursed her lips.
"Here's the thing. If you want to do the whole hotel thing, we'll have to wait a while. There's a whole bunch of conventions coming through the city in the next month."
My face must have fallen.
"I've got it," Clinton said. "We have an extra room in our apartment. Why don't you stay with us?"
"You guys live together?" I was stunned. "I thought you were..."
"Gay?" Clinton asked with a laugh. "Glad to know that's working. I don't know why, but people just aren't comfortable with a straight guy dispensing fashion advice. So what do you say?"
"I say let's do it!"
My boss was as big a fan of the show as I was and readily consented to give me the following week off for my fashion makeover. On Saturday afternoon I took the train from Philly up to New York. Clinton and Stacy met me at the station and whisked me to a large Brooklyn brownstone in a taxi.
"I don't believe it!" I exclaimed as soon as I walked in the door. "You actually film the show in here? There's the 360-degree mirror."
The show's signature was a set of mirrors that gave you an all-around look at yourself. I was not looking forward to seeing myself in that. It's not that I was fat or anything. I'm a healthy 135, but at five-foot-seven, I carry it pretty well. Particularly considering how much I carry up front, so to speak. But every woman has parts of her body she'd like to change. For me, it was my ass. And my shoulders. Maybe my calves.
"Oh, we just use this place to rehearse," Stacy assured me. "We do all the inside shots—the mirror, the reveal—later in the week after you're done shopping. It's just so much easier that way. Same with us trashing your wardrobe."
"Not to mention us trashing you while we watch the film we secretly took of you the last couple of weeks. We'll do that back in Philly with the friends who nominated you."
"Which you're still not going to tell me who they are," I said.
"That's right. So you brought three outfits with you, right?"
"Yup. One for work, one for hangin' out, and one I use to go out clubbing."
"Perfect," Stacy said. "Well let's not waste any time. We don't need a videographer for this one. We have a stationary camera set up right over there. Why don't you give us the office outfit first and we'll meet you in the mirror?"
I stepped into the mirror and immediately regretted my choice. It was winter, so a sweater was de rigeur at our chilly office. But the pants I usually wore with it made me look...
"Schlubby," Stacy said, emerging from the back of the mirror with Clinton by her side.
"Schlubby?" I repeated.
"Exactly," Clinton said. "You have a dynamite body—tall, well-proportioned, nice long legs. And this outfit manages to make you look both shorter and heavier."
"Now come and see what we think you should show up at work in," Stacy said. "Gray pantsuit with wide pinstripes and a single button on the jacket, and a white cami underneath. Can you see yourself wearing that?"
"I guess," I said. "The bank where I work is a little conservative, though. That might be a little too much, um, skin."
"Cleavage?" Clinton suggested with a smile.
"Honey," Stacy said, "if I had your assets, I'd take every opportunity to air 'em out. As long as you show up looking professional, they'll accept however much skin you want to show. You're going to have to trust us on this one. What we're looking for here is an outfit that's cut much better to your figure. Let's see your casual now."
They quickly tore that one to pieces as well. Skinny jeans weren't a good idea, they said, but the jeans I was wearing were apparently even worse. And the top. Ay-yi-yi. I was 28? I looked 58. Why didn't I just apply for my AARP card right now? Then they showed me their take on casual. It looked a little over the top to me; the jeans would hug my ample ass and the top would be a stretch, in the true sense of the word.
We finally turned to my night-on-the-town togs. I was kind of proud of this look. They were less than complimentary of my little black dress. Stacy's idea was a leopard print dress that ended somewhere north of the middle of my thighs. This was their idea of texture?
I was more than a little surprised by the fashion show they had arranged. There wasn't anything I could point to as actually slutty, but it seemed far away from the usually classy looks that turned up on the show. Stacy sensed my reservations.
"I know what you're thinking, Carly. Have they gone absolutely nutso? They look like such pros on the show. And you get here, and we're not wearing makeup, we look older, and we start giving you outfits that make you look like a hooker. Am I right?"
"Exactly," Clinton said. "That's why we do all this rehearsal. When we do the studio filming, it takes on a whole different look. As for the outfits, those aren't the ones we'll use in the show either. But they do give you an idea of the kind of thing we're looking for, if not the actual clothes. So if you take what we've suggested, and combine with your normal conservatism and very good taste, we should end up at a perfect medium."
I bridled at the word conservative, but I think I understood what they were doing.
"We'll start tomorrow with a fitting here in the apartment," Stacy concluded.
"Here? Fitting what?"
"The girls," she said, cupping her own breasts in a manner she couldn't reproduce even on cable television. "Before we shop 'til we drop, we have to scoop up the droop."
She looked at Clinton.
"That's pretty good, isn't it? I'll have to use that one."
Despite the clinical professionalism of Maura, the woman who was measuring me, I couldn't help but being turned on. My last boyfriend—all of my boyfriends, come to that—had loved to suck and nibble, and the constant attention never produced the desensitizing effect that I had expected. Instead, the girls, as Stacy always called them, had grown even more giggly. And now Maura was slipping a soft cloth tape measure underneath my boobs. Oh, baby.
At her instruction, I had stripped off my blouse. Clinton had been banished for the morning, under Stacy's orders to scout out likely stores in Manhattan. Maura's eyes widened in horror as she looked at me.
"Take that disaster off, too," she snapped.
"My bra?" I squeaked.
"Bra," she scoffed. "That doesn't meet any of the requirements of a bra. It doesn't support your boobs, it doesn't enhance them, it doesn't do shit. God, girl, you might as well be topless for all the good that's doing you. Come on, come on."
"I didn't think you did fittings topless," I whined.
"Normally no. But I can't do it with that bra on. Do you have another one that fits better?"
Of course I didn't. I turned around to look at Stacy and she gave me a nod of encouragement. Taking a deep breath, I reached around for the hook and slowly let the bra drop into my hands. Maura snatched it out of my hands. I turned back and stared in horror as she pulled a pair of scissors out of her bag and cut right through the band between the two cups. She tossed the two halves into Stacy's kitchen trash can.
Then she had looked back at my torso. Maura had smiled and I found myself breathing a sigh of relief. My bra might be bad, I thought, but at least there was nothing amiss with the girls. Unaccountably, I felt my nipples tightening ever so slightly. Feeling that tape against the underside of my breast only made it worse.
"Don't worry," Maura murmured with detachment. "Happens all the time. I get 34, and what were you wearing?"
"Thirty-eight," I mumbled.
"So I'm betting the cup is nowhere near right, too," she continued. Finding that out was even more embarrassing. She moved the measure up my back, and when she wrapped it around, it cut right across my nipples.
"Trying to make it hard on me?" Maura teased. That made it even worse; I felt myself blushing. She adjusted the measure so that it nestled right underneath the nipple.
"Thought so," she said under her breath.
"So what is it?" I asked. She was busy putting the tape measure away.
"I'm going to go collect a couple of samples from the shop and we'll see which fits you best. Different bras have different sizes, so we'll just give you a range. Generally, though, you're going to need about two cup sizes above what you were wearing."
I looked down at the bra hanging out the top of the trash can.
"Right, that one," Maura said. "And you can just stay that way until I get back. If I find you've pulled out another one of those things, I won't be held responsible for my actions."
She cut at the air with her scissors a few times and laughed to lighten the mood.
"The girls will be much happier," Stacy assured me after Maura had left. She sipped at her coffee and eyed me out of half-closed eyes. "They look happy now, in fact."
I blushed. My nipples always took a long time returning to their "proper" size.
"Like Maura said," Stacy continued, "it happens all the time."
"What's the problem? If it was a guy feeling you up, the same thing would have happened."
"Well, sure. But I would never let a guy get that far if he didn't already turn me on."
"So maybe it was Maura..."
"Maura?" My voice was a squeak once again.
"She's young, she's pretty..."
"A normal girl," Stay interrupted. "Who can appreciate a good-looking woman just as much as she can a good-looking guy."
"But that doesn't mean—"
"That you find women sexually attractive?" Stacy asked. "Carly, the one thing I've learned working in this business is that women are sexually attractive. And the only women who don't understand that are denying their own experience. You mean to tell me you didn't have a high school teacher or a woman professor in college who pushed your buttons?"
"Well, sure, but—"
"You outgrew it?" Stacy was shaking her head. "It doesn't happen that way. You just learn to suppress it."
"You think?" I asked.
Stacy snickered. "The girls think so."
I looked down and saw that my nips were paying their own special attention to the conversation.
"For example," she said quietly, "I have to tell you that this old lady finds you very attractive."
My eyes widened. Stacy London found me attractive? What was the right thing to say now? Fuck off? Fuck you? Fuck me?
"You're not that old," I answered, matching her tone perfectly.
She smiled and stood, covering the ground between us in two steps. We were perfectly matched in height, so when she curled her hand around my neck and pulled me toward her, our mouths fell into a long, deep kiss. I felt my nipples getting even tighter and Stacy appeared to notice as well. Breaking the kiss, she looked down and cupped a boob in one of her hands. Dropping her head, she pursed her lips and encircled my nipple.
"Mmmm," I moaned, holding her to me.
"Mmm is right," Stacy said as she straightened up. "Your bedroom, baby. Right now."
She took me by the hand and led me to the bed in which I spent the previous night. She paused in front of me and swept her long hair off her shoulder. Stacy was dressed to the nines, in a black knee-length dress with white piping, and this was nothing if not an invitation. I reached for the zipper and took it between my thumb and forefinger. I surprised even myself by suddenly finding my inner tease.
"You want this off?" I whispered into her ear.
"Baby." Stacy's whine was a turn-on all its own. I started to pull the zipper slowly down her back, covering the path that it exposed with soft, hot kisses. She finally peeled the dress off her shoulders, as desperate to get her clothes off as I was. Her own bra was a flimsy, although perfectly fitted, thing, sheathing her delicate boobs in cups of expensive silk. I reached around her and with a light kiss on her shoulder unhooked the front closure. Her breasts spilled out, the nipples hard and tight. She gasped as she felt my hands squeeze them.
"Carly," she whispered in a husky alto.
"Stacy," I answered. I released her breasts and slid my hands down her ribcage, over her washboard stomach. My fingers brushed the prominent bumps of her pelvic bones and slipped under her matching panties. They pushed the silk down her thighs and found the silky triangle those panties had protected.
"Touch me," she said.
I touched her. I steered her to the bed and pushed her down gently. She rolled backward and I climbed atop her. We began kissing: long, searing meetings between two hungry mouths. Our tongues joined, struggling for primacy. I felt my bigger breasts engulfing her smaller ones, flattening them against her chest.
It was time for her breasts to receive the attentions mine had enjoyed. I kissed my way down her neck and across her collarbone until I reached the alabaster skin of a boob. As mine had done, her nipple stiffened to the touch of my tongue, the pressure of my lips, the vacuum of my thirst. She arched her back, pressing herself further inside me. I circled one hand behind her back to support her and dropped the other between her thighs.
I had moved to one side now, straddling one of her legs. I felt her raise it slightly, felt her thigh pressing my soaked panties and jeans against my own sex. I had forgotten that I was still only half-naked.
"No!" she protested.
"A minute," I begged. "A second." I stood up and shucked my pants and panties as quickly as I could. She held out her arms, her raw need evident on her face. I melted into her embrace, letting her lift me upward so that she could suck my tit into her mouth again. She was done with kissing and nibbling. Her mouth was ravenous, attacking my sensitive flesh with her teeth and tongue. I felt the need swelling within me, the desire to taste her.
She was of the same mind. She guided my head down between her legs, letting me kiss first one thigh and then the other. With one hand on her breasts, I dove between those thighs, scraping my teeth along her open sex and drawing a groan of wantonness from her lips. She pulled me further in, her wetness an invitation to my tongue. I could hear her small gasps and feel her hands in my hair, together urging me deeper and deeper inside. My tongue picked up its tempo, and I felt the muscles in her thighs and belly ripple with pleasure. A finger slid inside her, and then another, moving faster and faster. Her hands turned to fists, clenching my hair as if it were a wild animal on the attack.
"Oh!" she cried. "Baby, yes! Ah! Ah!"
She was close, oh so close, and I pulled back.
"No!" she screamed.
I took the palm of my hand and pressed it against her mound; once, twice, and a third time. The fourth was enough. She cried in ecstasy, grabbing my wrist in her tiny hands and holding it between her squeezing thighs. Her pleasure seemed to go on forever, coursing through her beautiful body, until finally it was done. She was spent.
Our love-making, it turned out, was over. She apologized profusely. She was exhausted, with very muscle still trembling. Later, she promised, perhaps tomorrow, after my shopping. It wouldn't be hard to send Clinton away. We would be together then.
The next two days were a whirlwind of shopping. The first day I was on my own, accompanied only by a woman with a video camera. It seemed too small to me, but Clinton and Stacy assured me that it would produce the high-quality images they needed for the show. I did my best to remember the rules they had given me, the emphasis on color, pattern, texture, and shine.
I also remembered Stacy's promise. Maura had brought me a stunning selection of bras and given me hints on what to look for. During my shopping expedition, I made sure to pick out a few that I would enjoy having Stacy remove that evening. But Clinton refused to take the bait. Try as she might, Stacy was unable to get him to leave. We shared looks of despair, and Stacy mouthed the word "tomorrow" to me.
Clinton and Stacy came with me the following day, explaining what I had done correctly and where I had gone wrong. This time Stacy was successful in splitting the team up; Clinton was sent in search of work outfits while Stacy would help with the casual and nighttime looks. There was little we could do with the camerawoman looking on, although Stacy did help me in the fitting room a few more times than I had ever seen on the show. We stole brief, unsatisfying kisses but little more.
But that night it was Clinton with whom I was left alone. We were sitting at the table, sipping from what I was sure was a very expensive bottle of wine. Stacy answered the ringing phone and, after a brief conversation, hung up with a disgusted look on her face.
"What's wrong?" Clinton asked.
"It's my mother," Stacy answered with a disgusted look on her face. "Some sort of hospitality emergency."
"My mother thinks that giving a party with the wrong cutlery is like going to the hospital without clean underwear," Stacy explained to me. "I've got to go. You guys go ahead and order some dinner. God only knows when I'll be back."
"So how was it?" Clinton asked as soon as Stacy was out the door.
"The shopping? Great."
"I didn't mean the shopping."
I felt myself reddening.
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Okay," Clinton said. "As long as you weren't hurt."
"Hurt? How would I get hurt?"
"Sometimes Stacy can be a little, er, rough."
I felt a shiver down my back.
"Some times?" I asked, emphasizing the latter word.
"Let me guess, she caught you getting turned on by the bra-fitting—I think she pays Maura a little extra—and she ended up seducing you. Although if I know my Stace, you ended up doing all the work and she ended up getting the toe-curling climax."
I stared at him, my mouth open.
"She's done this before?" I was finally able to ask.
He nodded, a rueful smile on his lips.
"So you mean she was ... playing me?"
"Let's say she was ... taking advantage of you. She's a celebrity, right? She makes a pass at you, you answer. All consenting adults."
"And you're fine with that?"
He tried to shrug it off, but I could see a tear forming in his eye.
"Clinton?" I put my hand on his arm. "What is it? Do you and Stacy not, um..."
"Have sex? Sure. Now and then. Make love? I'm not sure I can call it that."
I tilted my head, inviting him to continue.
"We used to have a, you know, quote-unquote normal relationship," he said. "But a few years ago, Stacy decided she wanted to spice it up a little, add some excitement to it."
"Another woman?" I guessed.
He laughed. "No. I think that I could have handled. No, she—you know, maybe we shouldn't talk about it."
"Whatever you want," I assured him.
He gave me a long look, as if searching out my sincerity, and then took a deep breath.
"She decided she wanted to do a little bondage."
"That's not, um, unusual," I said.
"Not at all. She just wanted to be handcuffed, spanked, that sort of stuff. So I really got into it. And then earlier this year, she says no more. We're not gonna do that again."
"Just like that?"
"Just like that. And now the problem is..."
"I can't ... I can't do it the old way. I can't, well, do it. Maybe if we'd gone back a little more slowly, just sort of backed off a little bit. But she just brought to a screeching stop."
"Oh, God. Clinton, you poor man. So she turned to women. And you..."
He gave another shrug and I felt a surge of anger.
"That bitch! That goddamn fucking bitch!"
"No, see, that's my problem," Clinton said. "She's just a plain bitch. No fucking at all."
I couldn't help myself; I started giggling.
"I'm serious!" I said, stamping my foot on the ground.
"Well, thank you," Clinton said. "Thank you for that. I—I appreciate your anger on my behalf."
He poured another glass of wine and offered me a silent toast. I raised my glass and then put it down again, nearly shattering it against the stone tabletop.
"You refuse to drink with me?" he asked, disappointment lining his face.
"Not at all," I said, a smile spreading across mine. "But I would rather eat."
"Don't you have a nice, fat piece of meat you could feed me? Or perhaps force me to eat?"
He sat there, every muscle tensed.
"Carly, are you—are you... ?"
"Aware of what I am proposing? Yes, I am. Sure of my intentions? Yes, I am. I want you to take me back to your bedroom and tie me up, Clinton Kelly."
"I'm tempted," he said. "Stacy's mother lives in Westchester. She won't be back until eleven at the earliest."