Authors: Logan Belle
by Logan Belle
If it were any other night, I would be thrilled to be at the book party with him. It’s what all of the assistants at the publishing house wanted – even the ones who didn’t work for Declan Guinness. We all loved cocktail parties – free food (if you considered cheese cubes and crackers food) and wine, and on our salaries we needed that more than we wanted to admit. But we especially loved going to parties with Declan. For one thing, we could put our Metrocards away: my boss never took the bus or subway, or even a cab, for that matter — he had a car and driver. Rumor was that he was part of the Irish Brewery family. But money aside (and really, the city was full of rich guys) Declan was beyond gorgeous. And even thought I spent all day answering his phone and packing up press kits for his books, when I accompanied him out at night, he was so charming and such a gentleman, it was easy to pretend that I was his date. I know, I know – it was a dangerous fantasy. Declan was my boss, and smart girls just didn’t “go there.” And I was nothing if not a smart girl.
So when he casually stopped by my desk and said “it would be great” if I could go to the book party on Park Avenue, I replied, “Sure!” without even thinking about the fact that I had to be in the East Village by ten to do a show. When I tried to get out of going to the party, saying sorry I forgot I had something I had to do, he arched an eyebrow and said mischievously, “Hot date?” Okay, that was inappropriate. But we worked at a book publisher, not a law firm. We were all arty types, and a little humor and banter made everyone’s day go faster.
I blushed and babbled, “No, uh, I have to just…be somewhere.” To which he replied, “Hmm. Moonlighting?” And that shut me up fast.
“Actually – don’t worry about it. I can go,” I said. The last thing I wanted was people at work to wonder where I disappeared to three or four nights a week.
“Are you sure? Seriously, Cat — I’m just teasing.”
He’d only recently started calling me by my nickname. Before then, it was strictly “Catherine.” Also, recently, he’d taken off the platinum wedding band he’d worn for the past five years. I’d only known him for a year of that, but even I’d met the former Mrs. Guinness. She was, not surprisingly, a tall, stunning blonde, her hair a shade so pale and unbrassy that I could only imagine the time and money it required to maintain. Word on the street was that she traded in Declan for an even richer husband who didn’t have a pesky job to take up all his shopping and travel time.
Once the ring came off, I started obsessing about his personal life. Was he dating? What type of woman did he go for? Sometimes I would see his photo in the
New York Magazine
“Intelligencer” pages, and I would scan the party pictures for any hint of who he might be with. And I fantasized about running into him somewhere outside of work, somewhere we he would finally see me as someone other than just his assistant.
So there I was, sitting in the middle of a sumptuous living room on the Upper East Side, surrounded by expensive art and skinny women wearing colorful summer tunic dresses and looking like Tory Burch clones. I was sweating despite the air-conditioning because I was wearing a long-sleeved dress to hide my tattoos. I was paranoid about people at work seeing my ink, as if it would somehow reveal my dual life. It was ridiculous, I knew – everyone had tattoos these days. But my Varga girl in a red corset hit a little too close to home.
I pulled my cotton dress open at the neckline, and fanned myself with a cocktail napkin. One small table held a pile of the hot-off-the presses cooking memoir (yes, another one) by a
New York Times
editor. She held court in the middle of the room, laughing and drinking in a small crowd that clustered around her. Declan was on the periphery of the group. He looked so beautiful, with his glossy dark hair and Ralph Lauren-model profile, I could barely stand it.
As if sensing my animal stare, he turned to look at me, and waved me over with a grin. I was embarrassed at the surge of joy his attention always gave me. Sometimes, a look and a smile from him was enough to make my pussy throb.
Like a hapless puppy, I trotted over to him.
“I want to introduce you to…” I could barely follow what he was saying. Sometimes, when I was near him – especially when we were out of the office – I felt a surge of attraction to him so intense it took all of my willpower not to reach out and touch him.
“I have to leave soon,” I told him, hoping he wouldn’t ask where I was going. If he did, I was prepared to lie.
“Okay, okay – I know I dragged you here. Thanks for helping out tonight. See you in the morning.”
I hated to leave. When I was around Declan, it was like the world was in Technicolor, and when I was away from him, black and white. I told this to one of the girls at Crushed Velvet, the burlesque club where I performed. She told me that meant I was in love with him.
There was a line outside of the club. It was a sold-out show, and the people standing in the humid July heat were probably waiting for standby seats. Good for them – it would be worth the wait. The theme tonight was “Cinematic Seduction” and all of our performances were tributes to the great movie femme fatales. For me, the choice was a no-brainer: I would be dressed as Lolita and performing to Marilyn Manson’s “Heart-Shaped Glasses.”
Backstage, in the cramped dressing room, I sat in front of the make-up mirror, naked except for the red bellabumbum thong I would ultimately strip down to in front of the audience. I looked down at the slope of my C-cup breasts and my flat stomach, and thought of Declan; it was maddening and ironic that I was the object of desire to crowds night after night, but invisible to the one person I myself desired.
I dusted gold glitter on my eyelids, then attached false eyelashes. I brushed mascara over the eyelashes, then lined the inside and outside of my eye with Sephora black pencil liner until my eyes stood out as dramatically as Lady Gaga’s in her “Bad Romance” video.
I squeezed a generous loop of the eyelash glue onto the back of my heart-shaped, red-sequined pasties, and pressed one over each nipple until they stuck. Then I slipped into my short, plaid school-girl skirt, and topped it off with an easy-off black corset I had specially made by a costumer in Williamsburg. I pulled my dark hair in to two pigtails, pulled up my thigh-high stockings, and stepped into my five-inch platform heels. I finished off the costume with a pair of elbow-length black gloves and, of course, red, heart-shaped glasses. Showtime.
The MC announced me to the audience
“And now, ladies and gentleman, the fabulous flagellator, your mistress of mischief, Ms. Cat O’ Nine Tails!”
Cat O’Nine Tails was my burlesque name, and I almost always included one as a prop in my act. The stage was set for me with a small wooden desk set in the center, covered with hardcover books. By the end of my performance, I would be draped across the desk in only my thong and pasties.
The pulsing, moody strains of “Heart-Shaped Glasses” began, and I stepped out from behind the black curtain. The crowd was quiet except for a few sharp whistles. The music was dramatic, and they were a seasoned enough audience to sense that the tone of my performance would be more erotic than playful. Our shows at the Crushed Velvet ran the gamut, and some of the girls really played their acts for laughs. I admired my friends who could do a tongue-in-cheek number to Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” or “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.” For some reason, my dances were always more serious. I guess it was that was the part of my sexuality I felt compelled to explore on stage.
I did a few turns and made my way to the front of the stage. By the time the song built to the lyrics “don’t break my heart” I shook my ass at the audience and slowly removed one glove. They cheered their approval, and I peeked coquettishly at them over one shoulder while inching off the second glove. I tossed it to the ground, and the crowd whistled and clapped. Stretching my arms out, I arched my back dramatically, and the audience cheered in anticipation of me removing the corset. Instead, I reached down for the cat o’nine tails, and – naughty schoolgirl that I was – used it to sweep the books off of the desk onto the floor. I stepped one high-heeled foot onto a book, and then slowly undid the side clasps of my corset. Facing the audience, I shimmied, cupping my breasts as I eased the corset away.
And then I saw him.
There, in the second row, dead center, was Declan Guinness.
Even though I knew it was him – knew it even before it fully registered with me, I looked back to make sure. And we made eye contact that hit me like an electric shock.
I froze, but only for a second. Quickly recovering, I tossed my corset to the ground, and went into autopilot as I cupped my pasties-covered breasts in my hands and offered them to the roaring crowd.
I’d heard about things like this happening – girls seeing their ex-boyfriends or college friends in the audience. The key was to just tune them out, and to know that it wasn’t you on stage, it was your burlesque persona. Maybe he didn’t even recognize me, I foolishly hoped, while another part of me – the part of me that thought of him late at night or when I was putting on my body glitter before shows – hoped that he did.
And it was this part of me that was extremely turned on knowing he was watching me, finally seeing me as I really was, not as his mousy assistant, breasts and tattoos hidden under button-down shirts from the GAP and shapeless dresses.
The song built to its crescendo,
And I don’t mind you keeping me on pins and needles
…, and I pulled off my little schoolgirl skirt, and danced over to the desk, where I splayed my body across the hard wooden ledge, one knee bent, toes pointed, arms outstretched, my chest heaving with excitement and exertion. I thought of him watching me, and wondered if the audience knew that my expensive thong was suddenly very damp.
The club had a back entrance that let us leave through an alley and avoid the customers. Dressed in my normal clothes, with my make-up removed, I could usually pass right in front of the club and no one noticed me. But tonight I wanted someone to notice me – and he did.
“Cat,” he said, stepping out from under the awning of the club.
“What are you doing here?” It felt strange to be that direct – almost accusatory — but the usual dynamic of employer/employee had fallen away the minute my corset hit the floor.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
“It’s okay…I mean, it’s a free country. I just want to know why.”
He hesitated for a beat.
“I heard a rumor that you did this. I was curious about it but I didn’t know where or when. And so tonight, when you were in such a hurry to leave the party, I had my driver follow you and text me where to find you.”
I had no idea how to respond to this, so I said nothing. And then I remembered,
“It was a sold out show,” I said.
“I hate to break it to you, but your ticket counter accepts bribes.”
We stared at each other and I fought the urge to break eye-contact first.
And then he reached out and took the duffel bag off of my shoulder.
“Let me carry this for you,” he said. And just like that, it was understood that wherever I was going next, he was coming with me.
I walked west, towards my apartment on Bank Street, because I didn’t know where else to go. Declan walked beside me silently. When we reached Greenwich Avenue, I stopped and said,
“This is probably a bad idea.”
“I know,” he agreed – a little too quickly.
“I mean, work and everything,” I said lamely, trying to open the door for negotiation.
He stopped walking and we faced each other under the light of a streetlamp. He was still wearing the dark blue, pinstriped shirt he wore to the party, and I thought of how I had looked at him across the room just a few hours ago, never imagining in my wildest, masturbatory fantasy that I’d standing with him a block from my apartment debating the wisdom of a hook-up
“Yeah, about that.” He smiled and ran his hand through his thick hair. It was a move I’d seen countless times in long editorial meetings or when he was on the phone in his office, and I always felt the same urge to follow his motion with my own hand. “Cat, you are so damn distracting to me.”
“What? I’m distracting to
“Yeah. Can’t you tell? I can barely take my eyes off you. It’s so unprofessional. And how many times a day so I stop by your desk? I mean, come on – I don’t need that much assistance.”
I was shocked. How could I be so clueless?
He grinned at me and it was so adorable I wanted to throw myself against him right there on the street.
“Could you tell, I mean, is it obvious that I feel the same way?”
“Yeah,” he said.
“It is?” I was mortified. I thought I’d played it so cool.
“Sort of. I never would have said anything if I didn’t think it was mutual. I don’t want to, you know – sexually harass you.”
“You’re not,” I said.
“Not even just a little?” That grin again.
“Hmm. Maybe a little.” And we stood there, smiling at each other like crazy people. Until I couldn’t stand it anymore, and I took a step forward and put my arms around him.
I kissed the side of his face, and then our mouths met, and kissed him hungrily – like it was the last kiss I’d ever have. It was such a relief to feel his arms circle my waist, pulling me closer. I realized how afraid I’d been that this would never happen, and that I’d have to live with that.
We separated after a minute, and he said, “Are we really going to do this?”
“Do what?” I said. Becausesomehow in that moment I still wasn’t sure where this was going.
“Fuck,” he whispered, his mouth against my ear, lost in my hair. And with that one word, the way he said it, I knew that he was going to be better than any fantasy.
We walked up the five flights to my apartment without talking, without holding hands. But as soon as I closed the front door he pulled me to him again. I felt him hard through his pants, and I wanted to touch him but something held me back. As much as I wanted to pretend it didn’t matter, the work thing was somehow there, making me second-guess my sexual impulses.