Girlfriend By The Hour

Girlfriend By The Hour

Status: Finished

Genre: Erotica

Details

Status: Finished

Genre: Erotica

Summary

When Imogen accidentally interviews to be the social companion of Andre Lachlan, she never imagines what the job will entail.

Summary

When Imogen accidentally interviews to be the social companion of Andre Lachlan, she never imagines what the job will entail.

Chapter5 (v.1) - The First Date

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: March 14, 2015

Reads: 1774

Comments: 4

A A A | A A A

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: March 14, 2015

A A A

A A A

Dinner was nearly a disaster. Imogen could have talked all night—all year, in fact—with Andre about Terreign, but she didn’t want to look like a fan girl. At first it was the embarrassment of why she’d interviewed with his company. Then she started to worry Andre would think she’d deliberately gone to the wrong interview to meet him. Worse, what if she’d been so obsessed by him she’d figured out his dating system and staged everything? Completely humiliating.

God, he’d already been in her apartment.

Imogen was nearly aphasic by the time he pulled up to the valet parking at the restaurant. The only thing that saved her was, oddly enough, Andre’s horrible decision about where they’d dine. When the server arrived and Imogen declined Andre’s offer to order for her, his sound of irritation reminded her of how he felt about chatty women. She quickly dropped her eyes to the menu to hide her own dismay and said, “I don’t eat meat.”

“At all?” Andre asked.

“No. Or, umm, dairy. Lactose intolerant.”

Andre closed his menu, planted his elbows on the table, and tented his fingers. “We’re in a steak house.”

Imogen swallowed. Even with her eyes cast down, she could feel his gaze drilling into her. The contract had included a clause stating that the first date was a probationary run. If she displeased him now, this would be the last date. Her first attempt at pretending to be a normal person, and she was failing.

“Do you think you should have mentioned this before?”

Imogen nodded slightly. The server shifted uncomfortably.

“There are literally a dozen other restaurants within a mile of here we could have gone to that would have better suited you.”

“I’m sorry,” Imogen whispered. The server inched closer to her in a show of solidarity or in fear of Andre’s slow boil.

And then he shook his head and handed the server his menu. “My apologies. If you could have my car brought around, we’ll be--”

“No!” Imogen snatched the menu and slammed it back down in front of Andre. “It’s fine. Trust me, I’m used to this. I’ll figure something out.”

“You certainly will not.” Despite Andre’s cold tone, there was an amused glimmer in his eyes. He took Imogen’s hand before she could retract it and squeezed reassuringly. The contact was weird but calming. “Are there any other dietary restrictions Chef Michaels needs to be told of before he figures something out?”

Imogen wanted to protest vehemently—the last thing she wanted to do was inconvenience the person preparing her food—but the expectant looks she got from both Andre and the server told her to go with it. “Uh, eggs are fine? Oh, and I don’t like celery. Or cilantro.”

Andre motioned for her to continue.

“Um, I like spicy food, but not when the heat overpowers the flavor. Is that good?”

The server nodded and headed back to the kitchen.

Andre continued to hold her hand. This was what couples did on dates. Probably. Most of Imogen’s dating experience was vicariously through sit-coms. “What made you go vegetarian?” he asked.

Nerves caught her, and she replied with, “Nothing else should have to die for me,” instead of her usual answer. People were less likely to probe when she cited health reasons.

Thankfully, Andre mused on that for only a second before saying, “Reasonable enough. And what class do you play? I’ve always been partial to necromancers myself.”

Just like that, Imogen exhaled a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding since she found him standing in her kitchen. It had been just as surreal having him turn to face her there as it had been in the office. Those intensely golden eyes were just as disarming, even the absent way he’d swiped his thumb across his short, tidy beard as he studied her—far more politely this time than in the office. And the flowers were incredible. Not the most expensive bouquet, but simultaneously subtle and stunning. Despite the unfathomable success and undoubtedly luxurious lifestyle Andre now lived, Imogen was glad an artist still dwelt inside him.

With the gaming topic broached, Imogen finally found herself. She feigned boredom by taking an exaggerated interest in the nails of her free hand and said, “Oh, is that why they’re so over-powered? I swear this last expansion’s only purpose was to make it impossible for conduits to take them down.”

He pressed his lips to the back of her hand, breaking her unaffected façade. His intensely golden eyes captured hers as she blushed, and he quirked his eyebrow. “Conduits need to stop whining and learn how to bind their earth elementals properly. Then we’ll talk about who’s OP.”

“Do you know how irritating it is when you say that on the forums?” Imogen leaned over, bringing herself closer to Andre. He followed her lead until the only thing separating them was a candle flickering in a miniature hurricane lamp. Their eyes held, blocking out the world around them. A pleasant buzz ran down Imogen’s spine. In a low voice, she said, “It’s much more irritating in person.”

Andre sat back and laughed loudly enough the diners at the next table shot him dirty looks. But Andre was comfortable in his own skin and brushed it off. “I like you, Imogen. I think I’m going to enjoy this year immensely.”

~..~

Andre absently swiped his cheek where Imogen's fingers had just been. It was an awkward touch, one in a night of many, but they strung together pleasantly enough. When she'd done it, he could tell she was considering kissing him there before her bashfulness won out.

Imogen was strong, firm in his arms when they danced amidst fantastical floral sculptures and both wise and unyielding when they argued the mechanics of a fight between a transmogrified bear and a dervish with a power build.

Clearly the dervish would win, but Imogen disagreed. Vehemently.

So those shy moments both surprised and softened Andre. The crimson cheeks and the lowering of her eyes, the way she clutched his arm when the paparazzi flash bulbs blinded them at the entrance of the botanicals. There'd even been a tremble then, and though she continued forward without falter, she'd calmed noticeably when Andre put his arm around her and pulled her tight.

The photo taken then would be all over the office on Monday. There'd be many inappropriate comments made at Imogen's expense, but what she didn't know wouldn't hurt her. Plus, she gamed. She knew the culture. Midas had already sent him a report on her Terreign account. Although she'd never gotten a major ban, several players had lodged complaints of her language. The least colorful of it was her telling them to go fuck themselves. The most colorful was an ode to the length of her penis, including an entire verse lamenting the need to use clown balloons as condoms. Imogen could handle herself.

Except now. The touch of Andre's cheek had come with her excusing herself to the restroom, and Andre hadn't minded watching her walk away one bit—the olive dress was quite flattering, and Andre hadn't gotten too many opportunities to appreciate it—but then she turned slightly toward one of the restrooms and stopped dead in her tracks. She glanced both ways, pulled her phone out, and feigned distraction as she turned back and crossed to the other side of the hall.

Andre noticed the signs above the entrances and chuckled. In her attempt to flee the awkwardness of touching his cheek, Imogen had nearly walked into the men's room. If Andre's last companion had done that, she would have immediately laughed it off as she corrected herself or else strode boldly into the men's room, but not Imogen. Her blush crawled right around her long, graceful neck and across her pale, freckled shoulders, exposed above the drape of her shawl.

"You're not even listening are you?"

Andre glanced back at Morty Sharp. The man was every bit as gangly and asymmetrical as he'd been in high school, but his latest computer venture was apparently doing him well. He'd withered a bit after Andre bought him out of the company, but now he was back to designer suits and model girlfriends. The current one had toddled off to gush over a man she swore was Ashton Kutcher and very clearly wasn't.

"Sorry, what?" Andre asked as he brought his rocks glass up to sip his whiskey. Without Branson to drive him around, he was limiting himself to just the one glass, and Imogen had barely touched her champagne.

"The girl. Imogen. I like her."

"Oh." Andre didn't really know what to say to that. Morty had once been his closest friend, but the relationship was strained now. He wanted to rib Morty good-naturedly but didn't want to be too crass. "Your girlfriend seems nice," he said instead.

"Vapid bitch." Morty slugged his drink back far more aggressively. "Puts out, though." With that he walked off to find the vapid bitch, leaving Andre slightly confused as well as vindicated. He didn't have to choose girlfriends based on whether they 'put out' or not.

Which was great, because Imogen certainly wasn't putting out.

When she returned, she said, "One of the ladies in the bathroom said there's a whole orchid exhibit! Could we go see it?"

Andre nearly responded immediately, but he hesitated.

Her eyes widened. "Or...I could go by myself if you don't want to...or if you're busy, umm, networking whatever."

Andre lifted an eyebrow. He'd decided the moment she asked, but this was more fun.

Her eyes dropped down. She shifted her weight and picked at her nails. "Tomorrow. I can come back tomorrow. Alone."

It was amazing how powerful his silence affected her. She would fight him tooth and nail when he rose to it, but folded so neatly to his will simply to get him to talk.

Even more amazing was the effect of breaking it. He touched her shoulder and told her he'd love to go see the orchids with her now, and she lit up in excitement. She hugged him for exactly two seconds before the blush returned.

~..~

Above Imogen, rain pattered across the skylights. Below her, fairy lights guided her feet along the path of the dimly lit orchid exhibit. In front of and behind her, other couples strolled through the maze, but they were spread out enough that no one intruded on anyone else’s space.

Next to her, Andre linked his arm with hers and entwined their fingers. He talked in low tones, pointing to various flowers and sharing trivia about them. Imogen nodded with interest, but she was content with simply appreciating the flowers for their graceful beauty.

Also, listening to the cadence of Andre’s voice and feeling his warmth against her was nice. She could get used to this.

“There’s an Unscented Dendrobium,” Andre was saying of a fuchsia flower with a central petal that curled like an Easter Lily. “Smell it.”

“I don’t think we’re supposed to touch them,” Imogen protested.

“I didn’t tell you to touch it,” Andre said firmly. “I told you to smell it.”

His tone told her not to argue. She leaned forward and sniffed the flower. Considering the name, she didn’t expect much, and was pleasantly startled by its light, sweet aroma.

“It’s a misnomer,” Andre said before moving on to another one. “And right there’s a Black Orchid.”

This one had flowers that hung limply from the stalk and were definitely brown. The color varied between maroon and pumpkin, but there was no black.

“Also a bit of a misnomer, although some do get quite close to black. Behind it is a Lady Slipper.”

The flower had three scraggly, burgundy petals draping over a large pouch with a seam down the center. Imogen wrinkled her nose, uncomfortable with the look of this one.

“It’s native to North America, but nearly went extinct. It’s illegal to poach them now.”

“How do you know all this?” she asked. She could identify a rose from a mum from a daisy, but couldn’t do a whole lot else.

“I spend a lot of time here. It’s a good place for inspiration when I’m designing flora for my games.”

She glanced up at him, but he wasn’t looking back at her. He was gazing at one of the more exotic flowers. It had long, chocolate toned petals and golden fluff in the middle. Now that he had her thinking about it, she recognized it from the game. “That’s incredible,” she whispered.

He shrugged. “It’s easier with a reference.” He looked at her and poked her cheek. She was blushing again. “That’s not what you meant, is it?”

“I know you did most of the graphics in the original Terreign, and I know you’re still given credit for it, but I never thought you’d still be so involved. I figured you’d have passed that sort of responsibility on to someone else.”

“I still do what I enjoy doing.” He turned ever so slightly into her, and when he dropped his hand away, he did it slowly, lingering on her jaw. His eyes stayed on hers, but he was so close she couldn’t focus properly. She swallowed nervously, and his thumb strayed to the bobbing of her throat. “I enjoy beautiful things.”

This was a public, romantic setting, and Imogen was expected to be romantic in public settings. The theory of it was great, but she hadn’t accounted for the intimacy that would come with it. She took a deep breath to keep herself grounded, but she had to close her eyes.

She felt his breath on her ear as he leaned down and whispered, “You’ll get used to this, don’t worry.” His lips brushed against her temple, and then he straightened up and pointed again. “Oh, and that one is a Miss Joaquim. It’s the national flower of Singapore.”

Imogen couldn’t help tilting her head slightly. The flower had five pale pink petals with a larger, more deeply colored petal folding down from underneath and two magenta petals flanking a faintly yellow…nubby thing in the center. “Good God,” she gasped. “I get it now.”

“Get what?”

“Georgia O’Keefe.” Her phone chimed. “I totally get the whole…thing,” she said as she dug her phone out of her purse. She unlocked it and read the message from Sal: COME HOME NOW. She narrowed her eyes, but what she noticed was how loud the exhibit had gotten. It wasn’t additional viewers or louder music, though. It was rain; the light drizzle had become an intense downpour.

“Those were irises,” Andre pointed out as he leaned across her, brushing his chest against hers as he plucked the phone from her hand.

She tried to grab it, desperate to ask Sal to elaborate, but he held it out of her range. She could only press herself more firmly against him, and even then his arm was too long.

This time he whispered, “Orchids can be rather erotic, too.”

She froze. From the way he grinned, he probably thought her reaction was to his words. She tried to tell him no, it was the electricity in the air that put her on edge, but it was too late for that.

The thunder boomed loud enough it rattled the glass above them. A weak moan slipped through Imogen’s lips.

The flash of lightning came with the rush of memories deep within her. The pounding of rain on a tin roof, hands on her skin, his smell overpowering her. The sound of her own crying and his grunts.

She stumbled backwards.

“Imogen?”

The name was wrong. Not hers.

“Hey, hey. It’s just lightning.”

Hands on her arms, holding her up. Holding her to him, pinning her.

“I have to go,” she gasped as she curled up in his embrace. It was just Andre, she told herself. It was safe. He wouldn’t hurt her. She told herself this, but it was hard to believe it.

She was Imogen. She wasn’t Audrey. Audrey died long ago.

But she was Audrey, and he was him.

“Please? I have to go home.”

Andre touched her chin, nudging her eyes up to his. “You’re vegetarian,” he said, his voice level, soothing. “And you’re deathly afraid of lightning. Is there anything else I should know?”

Yes. Absolutely. My whole fucked up childhood. “No. I just have to go home. The train station’s right around the corner. I’ll be fine.”

He shook his head in disbelief. “I’ll take you home. No big deal.”

She took a moment to compose herself, to work through the story she used in the rare moments she let herself get in this situation. “You don’t understand. The lightning…it was a car crash. When I was little. The driver died…I’ll freak out in a car. But I can take the train, and there’s a bus from the North Springs station.”

“It’s eleven o’clock. You’re not taking the train alone.”

The look she gave him told him there was only one solution.


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