It had seemed like a good idea at the time. It was all in the name of creating a little more competition between Martin and me, to up the stakes just a little, as if the thirty thousand pound bonus wasn’t incentive enough…
Actually, scratch that: it had never seemed a good idea, even at the time. Even while I was agreeing to it, because I didn’t want to appear weak; unwilling to countenance the idea of being only the second best salesperson in the room. But the online advertising industry is full of bellowing bulls and this was no time to fall back on being the quiet country girl. These young men had had it their own way for far too long and I wasn’t about to back down now. Move over, alpha males, it’s time for an alpha female to take charge.
“Okay, Natalie. You say you like a challenge,” Martin had shouted over the jeers, “So I’ll make a deal with you.”
I’d looked back at him, not wanting to fall into whatever trap he thought he was laying, but not able to think of a face-saving way of getting out of it.
“Whoever has the lowest sales figures by the time the Christmas party comes round,” he’d continued, “Spends the entire Christmas party naked.”
“Only the party?” I’d said with forced bravado, “Why not the whole week? Or are you afraid your tiny dick will shrivel in the cold?”
That increased the volume of the jeers. Fighting fire with fire was the only thing these guys understood.
Martin winked at me condescendingly. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, country girl.”
He called me “country girl” whenever he wanted to get under my skin. I tried not to let it show but, like all good salespeople, he was too good at spotting body language and knew how much it affected me.
“You might spend all your days on the farm with nothing but mud to cover your skin, but things are a little different in the big city,” he added.
I scowled at him. I wasn’t even from a farm. I was barely even from the country, but because of my accent, and the small town I came from, Martin’s “country girl” nickname had stuck. I’d tried “city wanker”, “southern tosser” and various other insults, but he just seemed to soak them up. I could read body language just as well as he could and nothing had hit home yet.
“Let’s drink to it,” he said loudly for the benefit of the surrounding group, raising his small shot glass in my direction, “Lowest figures strips there and then when Les hands the bonus cheque to me… Oh, I’m sorry, I mean to say ‘to whoever wins’.”
“Naked from head to toe,” I agreed, as if this was as much my idea as his. And after all my posturing I couldn’t back down.
To seal the deal, I raised my glass, clinked it against his, and we downed our shots to a chorus of incoherent drunken male cheers. He winked at me again and I came as close to punching his smug little face as I’d ever come to punching anyone.
Still, as I said but didn’t really mean, it had seemed like a good idea back in May, with Christmas so many months off. Or at least it hadn’t seemed such a terrible idea as it did now that the party was underway.
The thing was, competition was so fierce within the two sales teams that figures weren’t shared. So we still had no idea who was on top. Or at least, I had no idea, but I couldn’t tell what kind of ends Martin might have to access the figures directly. He’d been winking at me the whole evening, so much that I’d avoided catching his eye at all, but since he was the kind of guy that would try to tell you everything was fine if he fell out of a plane without a parachute I didn’t think I could read much into his confidence.
The big Christmas “do”, as we might have called it back home, was happening in the presentation room on the first floor of the office building. The office manager had arranged for a bar to be set up with a keg of beer and all kinds of wines and spirits, and there was a small stage area for presentations and anything else that might go on. I’d heard that in previous years they’d had a band but opinion had been so divided on whether that was a success that they’d been replaced by an iPhone plugged into the sound system with dance tracks on shuffle. With the room decorated, somehow it didn’t feel as if we were still in the office, despite the fact that my desk was only one floor up.
The crackling of a microphone drew my attention to Les, the previously mentioned office manager, who was up on the small stage at the front of the room giving out end of year prizes. “And next up is the award for most creative campaign…” This wasn’t me yet so I drifted off again. I’m sure whoever won it produced some fabulous work, but my brain was side-tracked by worrying about whether the great start I’d made to the year had carried on through to the end. And Martin had pulled in some big deals as Christmas approached, including a huge designer bag campaign for Singapore, and I was feeling a lot less confident than I had been three months before.
“And finally…” I paid attention to Les again with butterflies in my stomach, “The prize we’ve all been waiting for. Not just because sales are the lifeblood of this company, but because I think we’ve all heard about the side bet that’s riding on this…” A loud testosterone-fuelled cheer rose from the crowd. “It’s time for the salesman… I mean salesperson of the year award. Would our two team leaders Martin and Natalie care to join me up on stage?”
I took a deep breath and stood, unable to resist a glance towards Martin. He was already standing and buttoning his suit jacket up. He caught my eye and winked at me. What was it about that wink that so annoyed me? Oh yes: it was the sense of superiority, the confidence, the message that no matter that I was the best saleswoman in the company, there would always be a man to beat me. Well, we’d just have to see about that.
I walked between the tables and the staring eyes that followed me and made my way to the stage. I think hardly anyone was looking at Martin, and I realised that, without a shadow of a doubt, there was barely a soul in the room that was hoping that I would win. Not because I was unpopular, because I was certainly no less popular than Martin, but because the way their eyes looked me up and down as I walked told me that they would much rather that I had to spend the rest of the evening naked than Martin. There were a handful of other women in the company but even they were watching me rather than Martin. I guess I should take that as some kind of a compliment.
Martin waited for me just short of stepping onto the stage and gestured for me to lead the way. He might think he was acting the part of the gentleman, but I knew full well that it was all for show. We took up places either side of Les.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what’s under that red dress,” Martin said across to me.
“I’m looking forward to everyone laughing at your tiny dick,” I retorted. And actually, for the first time, I found myself wondering what he might look like beneath that expensive suit. He certainly embraced the “work hard, play hard” mantra of the advertising sales executive, and all of those oh-so-competitive squash matches must keep his body in some kind of shape.
“We’ll see,” he replied with another wink. I couldn’t tell whether it was confidence that he’d won the contest, or confidence that he wouldn’t be so much of a laughing stock if he did end up standing there naked. And then a second realisation struck: I was the only one who could lose; Martin really didn’t care much what the outcome was. Heads: he saw me naked and humiliated. Tails: he had another story of how wild it was in ad-land. It was a win-win situation as far as he was concerned. And it made me regret falling for it even more.
“Here we go,” Les continued as he took an envelope out from his jacket pocket. Fear knotted my stomach. “So we have… Natalie.”
I jumped up and down with joy and there were even boos from the crowd. And I know, not just because I’d won, but because it would mean Martin prancing around in the nude instead of me.
“Hold on there,” Les said with a calming hand, “I’m just reading out the sales figures out.” So I hadn’t won? Yet? “Natalie, with one million, eight hundred and thirty-eight thousand.”
There were sounds of appreciation and a round of applause from the crowd now. That was the highest annual sales figure that anyone had ever made. I was confident now; confident enough to look over to Martin and wink. And I could tell from the look in his eyes that, for the first time, he was actually nervous. It seemed very odd to go through life confident that you’ll win at everything you attempt. It struck me as an exclusively male trait.
“And Martin… one million…” Les paused. I held my breath. The crowd were silent. But one million was the minimum I’d expect Martin to make.
“Eight hundred…” Oh god this was going to be close. Les paused and turned to each of us in turn.
“…and forty-two thousand.”
And what had I had? Thirty something. Thirty… eight? Not enough.
I’d lost? By four thousand pounds? I would have spent my own money on a campaign if I’d known!
I took a deep breath and glared at Martin. The most frustrating thing was that his total self-confidence was being rewarded. Again.
The noise coming from the crowd was almost overwhelming, and the louder Martin’s victory rally became, the more crushing my defeat felt. It was as if humanity had left the room and only animal spirits remained to grunt and shout and howl. I had loved the idea of working in the big city, but at times like this I just wished it could be just a little more civilised.
“You were close,” he said as he held out a hand. And even as he tried to deliver a compliment it came across as gloating. He was simply saying that I’d done really well for achieving almost as much a man. “You’ll get a decent bonus too,” he said with a shrug, thinking that it was all about the money. But it wasn’t about the money, and it wasn’t just about winning: it was about beating Martin; beating Martin at something that he’d never been beaten at before.
Four thousand pounds. That’s all the difference was. Four. Thousand. Pounds. I had a bag that had cost more than that. A bag just like the stupid bags in the stupid campaign that had probably tipped stupid Martin’s sales ahead of mine.
“Well…” Les said as he stared at me, and then looked me up and down, and then I knew what he meant. He took a step back to leave me in the limelight.
I looked at Martin who cocked his head and didn’t even need to say “I’m not letting you out of this”.
Yes, it wasn’t about the winning, it was about beating Martin, and it was very much about not being naked in front of my co-workers. I looked down at my long red dress and my little red shoes and took a deep breath. The noise of the crowd began to rise again, and the animal sounds began to form some human words.
“Off! Off! Off! Off!”
I wondered if anyone knew the sales figures beforehand. Were the Christmas parties usually this well attended? It was my first year at the company so I couldn’t tell, but the room in front of me seemed incredibly crowded. How many people were there? Seventy? Eighty? And I would have to face each and every one of them again after tonight?
“Off! Off! Off! Off!” Some were clapping along in time, but one thing was for sure: they had their prey in sight and they weren’t going to let me get away.
I reached behind me and fumbled for my zip.
“Would you like some help?” Martin said, leaning towards me and shouting over the crowd. My glare gave him the answer he needed.
I slid the zip down my back, pulled at the shoulder straps, and slid the red satin down my arms. The top half of the dress slumped off my torso.
I had chosen red underwear today, in case the shoulder straps should reveal any of my bra. It seemed kind of a redundant precaution now.
I didn’t want to spend a minute longer in front of the chanting mob than I had to, so with a wiggle of my hips I pushed the figure-hugging material down my waist. When it reached my thighs it fell to the floor and I took a step sideways.
That wasn’t so bad, I thought. I’m just on the stage in my underwear, that’s all.
“Off! Off! Off!” was now competing with wordless cheers, whooping and wolf whistles.
My hands went behind my back again and I unfastened my bra. This was it; this was the point where things got serious. The only choices I had were whether to feign boldness and bravery or to hide my body behind my hands.
But I knew that the more Martin saw I was suffering the more satisfied he would be, so with a single, rapid movement I had pulled the bra away and stood with one hand on my hip and the red lace hanging from my index finger.
Cheers and whoops completely drowned out the “off!” contingent, especially when I held my arm out to one side and theatrically dropped my bra onto the stage.
Oh, how thankful I was for being in good shape. But then, would Martin have even made the bet otherwise? Probably not.
I was almost blinded by the flashing of camera phones. And then I realised who the dark shape with the biggest flash was: the official photographer. My topless display was going to be recorded for posterity. Correction: my naked display was going to be recorded for posterity.
I looked down at the nearest tables. I knew every single person in the company. Almost everyone was cheering or shouting and almost every pair of eyes stared at my breasts. Some looked up at my face as my eyes fell on them, but most didn’t even bother pretending that they were looking at anything else.
But it amazed me how quickly the novelty of bare breasts seemed to wear off, as almost immediately the whoops and cheers seemed to be subsumed by more cries of “Off! Off! Off!”, which quickly gained overwhelming support.
I took a deep breath and pushed my fingers into my knickers. Before tonight I could count the number of men that had seen me naked on the fingers of one hand. In a few seconds I would need an abacus to do the same. I pushed my hands downwards and the delicate red lace glided over my thighs. As it reached my knees I let go and they fell to the floor.
The noise was deafening as I carefully stepped out of the red underwear. Well, I had done it. I was naked in front of everyone in the office. It wasn’t quite my worst nightmare, as that involved me sitting on the toilet in the middle of the shopping centre, but it was a close second.
I wanted to get off of the stage as quickly as possible so I took a step forwards. I nearly jumped when a hand touched my bare stomach and I glared at Martin. He removed it instantly, just before my arm was about to react with a slap.
“Erm, aren’t you forgetting something?” he said, with a pointed glance down at my red stilettos. I was meant to go without shoes as well? “Head to toe, I think we agreed?” And he winked again, and I nearly slapped him again.
I didn’t want to stand up there arguing so I kicked off the gorgeous red shoes, and dropped an inch in height in the process. The wooden stage was hard and rough on my bare feet.
I left the stage and walked back to my table, trying to shut out the sight of every head following me along the way. The room was spinning and it was all I could do to focus on reaching my chair.
I almost fell into it and was finally able to lay the tablecloth across my lap, rest my elbows on the table and cover myself a little. The others sat around the table hadn’t said a word as they stared at me.
“I think Natalie needs a glass of wine,” Ruth said from two seats left of me. She picked up the bottle and poured the thick, red liquid into my glass. I forced a smile which I wish could have expressed how grateful I was at even this small show of support. I picked up the full glass and took a large gulp. I would need a lot more of this to get me through the evening.
“That was so close,” another voice said. It was David, one of the junior sales staff. I turned to look at him and he stared intently into my eyes as if he was trying to pass some kind of telepathic message. Although one didn’t need to be telepathic to understand what the message was. It was something along the lines of: “Hey, naked girl, want me to take you away from here and look after you?”
I looked around the table at the other four men. Their eyes all bore into me with the same stare and variations on the same message. I glanced around the room and noticed that every male eye I met was very keen to hold contact for as long as possible, pleading that I would notice them above all others.
“Are you okay, Natalie?” David’s voice asked. There was very little note of concern in the question, or at least the only concern was to try to monopolise my attention. At least he was too far away to offer a “purely reassuring” touch on my arm.
“Sure, yeah! Why?” I forced a wide grin and sat back in my chair and his eyes instantly looked down at my chest. Was there any point in even trying to cover myself? And how long would I have to stay at the party anyway? If I left early, Martin would gloat even more, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to be the last person here.
“Well, uh…” David’s brain was scrambled at the sight of a pair of breasts and he wasn’t enough of an alpha male to be able to charm his way out of it.
“Excuse me,” I said, picking up my glass and standing, “I need to go and thank some people for their hard work this year.”
It was only pretence to get me away from the table, and the way all eyes scanned my body as I stood and turned away from them told me it was the right decision.
The hardwood floor felt suddenly clammy beneath my feet. I guess I hadn’t registered it on my way back to the table earlier, but all of those warm bodies spouting hot air over the course of the evening must have raised both the temperature and the humidity levels. That explained why I wasn’t quite cold, although it was a little cool to be walking around naked; a little cool and a little public.
Having made a poor excuse I had to follow through with appearing to at least talk to someone. I walked towards the bar at the side of the room, conscious again of how my every movement was being studied. There was a group of three which included the chief executive standing and talking and I decided that if I was going to brazen this one out, I may as well start at the top.
I was glad to at least have a wine glass to hold as if it formed some kind of barrier between my naked skin and the three men in grey suits. They turned towards me as I approached and their conversation paused, and for the first time since I’d lost the stupid contest I smiled to myself: so this was what power felt like. In a male-dominated business I was used to heads turning, and often that was a curse as much as a blessing, but I knew right then that I had the three of them very much on the back foot.
“Natalie,” the chief exec, Bryan, said, as if just saying my name was the way to start a conversation. His eyes flickered up and down my body and when they returned to meet my gaze he knew I’d seen it. Now, I’ve never been one to use my looks to advance my career, but right there and then I knew that if I chose to, I could go far with that approach.
“Bryan,” I said, “The party seems to be going really well.” It seemed incongruous to be standing there naked and to make such a mundane statement.
“Indeed, indeed,” he replied, still lost for words. And then the desperately grasping of his mind managed to find a conversation thread. “And congratulations on that fantastic sales total. You’ve made such a contribution to the company since you joined.”
“Not quite enough,” I said waving my hands, “As you can see.”
Oh, allright, I’ll admit it: watching the three men’s jaws hanging slack as they looked me up and down was a bit of a thrill. I had no interest in any of them, but they were three of the nicest guys at the company and all three of them happily, and I believe safely, married men.
“But thanks for saying so,” I said with a smile and took a sip from my wine glass. I could not have disarmed them more thoroughly if I’d tried. It was as if their brains had turned to mush.
I was just trying to think of how I could tease them a little more when a voice spoke from beside me.
“I just wanted to say well done again.” It was Martin, and the smile on his face told me that he hadn’t come to congratulate me, only to gloat some more. He looked me up and down but, unlike everyone else, he made no attempt to hide it from me.
“I’m thinking we could do with a new dress code policy,” he said to Bryan with as large a “I’m your best mate” grin as he could manage.
Bryan had seen Martin’s type come and go but, like him or not, he had pulled in a huge sales figure this year; just a little more than my own, as if I could ever forget it.
“A few of us were thinking of going on to a club later, if you fancy it,” Martin said as he turned back to me. Was he coming on to me, after everything that had happened?
I think my disdain must have been as visible as my nipples because the three older men smiled a little before I even said anything.
“I’m thinking I might be calling it a night soon,” I told Martin, “Once I can remember where I left my coat.”
That raised a laugh and Martin’s eyes sparkled. I wanted to shake him and shout: no, I am not flirting with you, you overdressed primate!
“An early night?” he questioned, “Wasn’t our deal to stay naked for the entire party?”
I took a deep breath and he watched my chest rise and fall as I fumed inwardly. And to cap it off, he winked again. He couldn’t have been more unpleasant if he’d been chewing on gum at the same time.
“So no sloping off home,” he added unnecessarily. “What time does the party end?” he asked Bryan.
“We’ll be kicked out at eleven,” Bryan told him. Martin looked at his watch.
“That’s only two hours away,” he said, “Here, let me get you a drink.”
“I’m fine with this, thanks,” I told him, holding my still half-full glass, “Excuse me a minute.”
It was time to move on again. At least I hadn’t shown any weakness to Martin, no hint of the embarrassment that was wringing my insides. But for some reason he thought that whenever I got angry at him it was because I was interested in him. It was like he’d learnt everything he knew about women from Hollywood blockbusters, where the leads go from animosity to rolling in the sack in the blink of an eye.
“Hey, Natalie,” a male voice said, approaching me, “I don’t suppose I could ask a favour, could I? I mean, it might be fun?” It was Les.
I raised an eyebrow. Les wants a favour? And, who on earth walks up to a naked woman at a party and just asks them for a favour as if there was nothing wrong with the world?
“Uh, sure,” I said for some reason.
“Well,” he said, “I’ve got to do the Secret Santa now. And I thought with you… well, naked and all… it’d be fun if you could hand out the presents.”
“Me?” I asked incredulously. Was this his great idea that might be fun? “Oh, sure,” I said sarcastically.
Les grinned and I remembered just how impervious he was to sarcasm. “Great! Follow me.”
Like an idiot, I followed him onto the low stage and stood there with my arms crossed.
“Gentleman,” he said into a small microphone, “And ladies.” He turned and looked at me and there was another cheer. What were they expecting me to do: wave back?
“Now we’ve got the second most important part of the evening: the Secret Santa!”
The crowd of young men obligingly filled the space that Les had left for them with incoherent shouting. Les waited for the noise to die down.
“I’ll call your names out,” he said, “And my beautiful assistant here…” He looked at me again, and there were more cheers, whoops and wolf whistles. “… will present you with your… uh… present.”
Les picked up the first parcel and read the name out loud.
Duncan came to the stage and I handed him the box. Was that pause before he left because he was expecting me to kiss him on the cheek? Dream on, buddy. Just be grateful I smiled and didn’t throw it at you.
And so the list went on. When Brian (who isn’t the same as Bryan, the chief executive) came up to the stage I was barely paying attention enough to remember that I had bought him his gift. Brian worked in tech support or databases or something and I barely knew him so I’d bought some kind of flashing light gadget that plugged into a USB port. I thought that was the kind of thing tech guys liked. I would say I hoped he liked it, but I didn’t really care. It was called a Secret Santa for a reason.
Finally, Les picked up the last box, which I realised he’d put aside especially.
I don’t know if the lights were bright enough to show how red I went as my nickname was called. I couldn’t say for sure that the box was from Martin or from one of his cohorts, but I made it my business right there and then to get each and every one of them back for this.
“That’ll be you, Natalie,” Les added, raising laughs from those of the crowd that were still paying attention instead of showing around their instantly forgettable presents.
I took my badly wrapped parcel, which was a clear sign that it had been one of the “that’ll do” men, and took it over to the bar. At least I was off the stage, and I felt safer standing at the bar where I might be more visible but I was also more mobile. It was better than hiding at one of the tables and being cornered by the likes of David or, even worse, Martin again. More people were standing in groups anyway now and, faster than I thought, fewer people were paying attention to me as I walked around. I almost felt offended at that.
I put my box on the bar and began to unwrap it. Whatever it was, it was quite large, about twelve inches square and four or five inches deep. I pulled the scrappily taped paper off and opened the plain cardboard box.
I instantly recognized it for what it was: a cowboy hat, or a sort of childish version of one. I picked it up and looked at it.
“Aren’t you going to put it on, country girl?” a voice said from just behind me. I looked around and saw Martin again and he gave me another wink. Geez, I wish he would stop hitting on me. And who the hell winks at girls in this day and age and expects anything from it?
“Naked from head to toe, I thought the deal was,” I said, showing him the hat.
He grinned. “Yeah, and aren’t I glad of it.” He ogled my body yet again. “But if the hat’s on top of your head then no rules are broken. Yeah?”
I rolled my eyes; this was just some part of his fantasy. And it struck me: he really did have the hots for me. And not just because I was naked, although I’m sure that helped. That would make sense of so many things that had happened over the year. And if I couldn’t get under his skin any other way then maybe this was the weakness I had been looking for. It had been right under my nose, and right between his legs, all the time.
“What do you think?” I asked as I rolled the hat onto my head and cocked my hip with one hand, forcing a flirtatious smile to my lips. His eyes lit up and I was certain I was on the right lines.
“Beautiful!” he said. It was the closest thing to a heartfelt compliment that I’d ever heard from his lips. “But there’s something else in the box too.”
Well that pretty much sealed the theory about who my Secret Santa was, although I wondered if it had been luck that Martin had been assigned my name or if he’d somehow arranged a swap.
I looked in the box and spotted two more items: a plastic gun belt with a toy sheriff’s gun, and a pair of handcuffs. I picked the handcuffs up and realised that they were very much not made of plastic, and I began to see just how deeply Martin’s fantasy ran.
I wrapped the gun belt around my waist. It felt odd to have the cool, hard plastic against my bare skin. It was slung low on one hip and I picked up the handcuffs and adopted my coquettish hand-on-hip pose again. Martin grinned.
“Now that’s what I call a country girl,” he said. I grinned to stop myself from telling him what a creepy little shit I thought he was as I twirled the handcuffs around my finger. They were surprisingly weighty and I wondered if they were adult play handcuffs at all. The ones I’d used before (it was an experiment, okay?) were flimsy and you could twist them apart with a bit of effort, in case you got stuck, I suppose. But not this pair. This pair looked like the only way out of them would be the key (which was thankfully attached to a small loop of string which I slipped over my wrist) or a lengthy session with power tools.
“I don’t suppose you’ve got a pair of cowboy boots lying around, have you?” I asked him teasingly.
“Oh, I wish…” He thought for a second: “But I could give you your shoes back.”
I’d heard that the naked woman in heels thing was quite the male fantasy, so I nodded. Martin almost fell over himself as he bounded across to where my shoes had been lined up neatly at one side of the stage and returned with them held by the straps. So why did he insist I took them off in the first place, then? I guess he wanted me to be humiliated first.
“Don’t shoes break the rules?” I asked him, still doing my best to flirt.
He tilted his head a little as if in thought again. “Head to toe, we said, and this only just covers your toes.”
He was right, in a way, and I put the red shoes down on the floor and slipped my feet into them. I was back to my usual in-the-office height again, and it already felt better to be an inch higher, as if the extra height gave me more authority. And that was a comical thought: that a naked woman in red shoes, a cowboy hat and a plastic gun belt could have any authority at all.
Martin looked me up and down again, his eyes filled with lust. So this was the key all along, this was the way to make him drop his cocky act: to pretend that I was in awe of him in some way? I would have happily have pretended that just to get under his skin.
“I’ve got something I need to check on upstairs,” I said coyly, “Do you want to keep me company?” I dangled the handcuffs on the end of my fingers. I needn’t have bothered as he was already under my spell. He simply nodded and I waved a beckoning finger and turned and led him away from the party.
I started up the stairs to the offices and meeting rooms with Martin followed behind. I tried to walk seductively, but I can’t help but think that the view that Martin had of my behind as I climbed the steps was not my best angle. But then, I’ve heard that men like that kind of thing, and if I’d heard it then Martin had probably heard it too and decided that he should think the same thing.
“Where are we going?” he asked me.
“To find a quiet meeting room,” I told him, and now it was my turn to wink. He received my wink like a puppy that had been told he was a good boy.
I peered through the door into the open plan office. The lights were on but it was deserted. I walked confidently towards the small meeting room, knowing without looking that Martin would be following on my tail.
I opened the door and leant up against it with one arm, inviting Martin inside. Martin entered and stood in the centre of the room and as I stepped away from the door it closed shut. I glanced out of the square window in the exterior wall, grateful that we were three stories up and with no tall buildings opposite. The last thing I’d want was for someone to see me alone with Martin like this.
Martin now appeared to be a bag of nerves. It was amazing how quickly he’d gone from alpha male to frightened young man. All it had taken was a confident woman who knew she had the upper hand. A confident naked woman, I admit, but I knew it was the confident part that he had a bigger problem with than the naked part.
“What…” he began as I stood only six inches away from him. I put the handcuffs on the table beside him, grabbed hold of his tie and pulled his face closer to mine. The cowboy hat slipped backwards as the brim pressed crushed his forehead. This was the part that was going to take the most willpower, but I managed to force my lips against his. His eyes closed, unlike mine, and as I worked at unknotting his tie my mouth was filled with the taste of onions. I tried not to think about it as I pulled the long strip of fabric from around his neck.
Martin’s hands closed around my waist and pulled me against him. Now, I have to admit, that part wasn’t so bad. He was pretty well built and his hands were strong. My skin rubbed against his shirt and his trousers and his erection pressed against my stomach. If it wasn’t for the kissing it wouldn’t have been so bad.
As I started to unbutton his collar his hands began to slide down my back and onto the tops of my buttocks. I had no time for that at all and, well, to hell with it, I thought as I wrapped his shirt lapels into my fists and pulled outwards as hard as I could.
Buttons flew in all directions and his shirt was open to thirds of the way down. Martin stopped kissing and his hands dropped to his sides in shock, which is exactly what I hoped would happen. I couldn’t tell whether it was the idea that I had damaged his precious shirt or the delusion that I wanted him so badly that I was going to literally rip the clothes from his body.
I changed my grip to hold his shirt further down and pulled again, scattering the last of the buttons across the floor.
What I had felt of his body wasn’t a bad assessment: he was in very good shaped indeed, with even a hint of a six-pack. As I said: apart from the kissing, and it being Martin, this wouldn’t have been too bad.
I ran my fingers across his stomach muscles, partly to calm him and partly because he probably did have the best body of any man I’d ever touched. His eyes half-closed and his hands started to return to my waist.
I had to put a stop to that, so I pushed my hands onto his chest and across his shoulders, shoving his shirt from his torso. His shoulders were pretty well-built too… No, I couldn’t get distracted. But the main thing was that as I pulled his shirt down his back his hands were staying away from my body. I had to fiddle at the buttons on the cuff to tug the shirt over his hands and he laughed. It would have been quite a touching moment if it wasn’t for the fact it was Martin.
I tossed the shirt to one side. Now one of us was fully naked and the other was half naked. It was a start.
He was about to put his hands on me again when I placed my palm in the centre of his chest and pushed backwards. He let me push him down into the chair just behind him. I put one hand on my hip, stood with my legs slightly apart, and looked down at him. He gazed up at me, nothing but lust written across his face. As it bloody well should be.
I picked up the handcuffs and dangled them again, as if I was wondering what I should do with the half-naked man in front of me. I put my hands on Martin’s knees, which he had well spread as if to demonstrate he needed that much room to hang his testicles, and knelt in front of him. His hands moved to my body again but I took hold of them and pushed them through the arms of the chairs and wrapped them behind him.
Leaning forwards with my breasts against his thighs I reached around his back and closed the handcuffs around one wrist and then the other. I know he could have stopped me if he wanted to. His body arched towards me, his desire now almost overwhelming him, and his cock, feeling rock hard even beneath a layer of trousers and underwear, pressed into my chest.
I rocked back, satisfied that I had Martin immobilised and powerless for the time being.
“I don’t know what’s come over you, but I like it,” he said. And this was the worst of all: he winked again. He had a naked woman knelt between his legs, a naked woman who had cuffed him to a chair and was apparently stripping him in a lust-filled frenzy, and he thought a wink would help things along? I guess an idiot is an idiot no matter what the situation. Actually, a turned on idiot is even more of an idiot.
I unfastened his belt and pulled his trousers open, trying to rush as if I was wild with desire. And to tell you the truth, I was immensely curious to see if his apparent confidence at the prospect of walking around naked for the evening was justified. The bulge I’d felt against my chest had felt… satisfactory, and even when I’m coldly calculating revenge I can’t be expected to overlook the occasional pleasure, can I?
“I wish I’d seen this side of you before,” Martin said.
“You just needed to look harder.”
I slipped my fingers into the top of his boxer shorts and yanked downwards. His penis sprang free and slapped back against his pelvis. He really was rock hard, and he really was justified in being so cocky: it was enormous.
“Actually, you look more than hard enough,” I joked, but he didn’t hear as his eyes closed and his head rocked back. I could read his mind: yes, it’s finally happening; she’s going to do it. The anticipation was almost too much for him.
And I know it was only Martin, but the sight of his enormous phallus just inches from my face… One or two male genitalia may have passed these angelic lips in the past, but his would be by far the largest. It almost made me question my past choices.
“Bad girl,” I told myself, and I shuffled back a little and untied Martin’s shoe laces. His cock was trying to wave up and down in front of me, the waistband of his trousers and boxer shorts keeping the shaft pressed against his stomach.
I pulled off his shoes and socks and I could hear Martin breathing heavily.
“You don’t need to do that,” he said through dazed eyes. He just wanted me to get on with it. He’d probably read something about foreplay being for losers or some shit somewhere.
“Sshh, you,” I told him, and to shut him up I put my palm on his penis and stroked gently upwards.
Okay, okay, I wanted to see what it felt like. Is that such a crime? Anyway, it did the job and his eyes closed and his head fell back again and a low moan came from his mouth.
I grabbed the hems of his trousers and simultaneous stood and pulled. I forgot the office chair had wheels and Martin began to slide towards me, unable to stop himself as his legs were now ten inches from the ground and his hands were cuffed behind him. I put my foot on the base of the share to stop it and pulled harder and Martin’s trousers slipped out from beneath him and down his legs. And, I have to admit, I enjoyed having that much power.
I finished removing his trousers and stood looking down at him. Now he was nearly as naked as I was. Only his boxer shorts, halfway down his hips already, were left.
I leant forwards and put my hands on his hips, conscious that my breasts were only a few inches from his face. He craned his neck to try to reach one with his lips. Maybe I could let him?… No: just because I was getting horny that was no excuse for getting intimate with Martin. Although, I guess, some people would call this pretty intimate already. But in my book it’s the thought that counts, and my thoughts were far from intimate.
I pulled sharply at his boxers and they slid out from under his buttocks. He closed his knees a little so that I could pull them down his legs and off of his feet.
I stood and admired my work: Martin, naked, handcuffed, with his erection poking into his own belly button as it flapped up and down.
“Are you going to finish the job?” Martin asked, first looking down at his penis, and then back at me with a wink. WITH A WINK! Did he think a wink was going to get him a blow-job? Knowing Martin, he probably did.
“Oh, yes,” I said, and as I sunk between his knees I wiggled my hips and ran my hands up his thighs.
His eyes closed again. “Oh, yeah,” he said as I gave his cock another stroke with my palm. Look, it was there, I was horny, and I just wanted to feel it again, so stop judging me. I’d had to put up with all kinds of shit from Martin over the year so I think I deserved a little time appreciating his one redeeming feature.
I took my hands from Martin’s body and groped around for his clothes scattered around me on the floor. I bundled them together and stood in front of him. He opened his eyes and looked up at me.
“Don’t stop now!” he pleaded.
“It’s okay,” I said as sweetly as I could, “I’m not going to.”
I walked over to the window and opened it, and with a light toss I threw his shirt, trousers, underwear and socks down onto whatever lay three stories below. I think it might be the planting by the entrance but I’m not entirely sure. Since I was topless I didn’t feel like leaning out of the window to look.
“Those are my clothes!” he said pointlessly. I nodded.
“You bitch!” He had turned very suddenly.
“Oh, come now,” I told him, “There was so little difference in the sales figures, surely we can both spend the evening naked?”
I would love to see what everyone would think of Martin wandering naked around the party. Sure, he had a great body, but did everyone really want that monster of an erection waved in front of them in the middle of the party? Could he keep it at bay for an entire evening? I was pretty sure I could guarantee it made an appearance sooner or later…
An idea occurred to me that I could wheel him across the office in that chair, put him in the elevator and send him down a floor. Maybe wrap a bow around that erection, just in case anyone didn’t notice it first off. Thankfully, the soberest part of me realised that that would end very badly.
I pulled the door to the meeting room open.
“You can’t leave me like this!” he protested, “How will I get out?” He wriggled his arms as if I’d forgotten the handcuffs around his wrists.
“Oh, yes, of course!” I said. I took the string that held the handcuff key from around my wrist and dangled it in front of him.
“Is this what you wanted?” I asked him. He looked at me blankly.
Now I can’t believe this actually worked, but I tossed the key towards him, watching the string looping through the air, and I’m sure it happened in slow motion, but the loop fell exactly where I’d been aiming for right over the top of his penis. It slid down the shaft and stopped with the key hanging against his testicles.
“It must be the cowboy hat,” I said with a tip of the brim as I turned and left. The door closed behind me.
I had no idea of knowing how long it might take Martin to get out of his predicament. The handcuffs were pretty solid, as was the chair, but my thinking was that once his erection had finally subsided the key would fall onto the chair, or the floor. I’m sure, somehow or other, he’d be able to get his hands on it and free himself. There was the small matter of retrieving his clothes, of course… But I’m sure he could work something out. Just as long as I didn’t have to see his smug face again this evening.
I walked across the empty office and, for the first time since I had been naked that evening, I felt pretty chuffed with myself.
Suddenly the door that I was hoping to leave through was opened and Bryan, the chief executive, strode through. He was followed by the other Brian (tech support). Brian’s eyes devoured by body, but Bryan had a serious look on his face.
“Natalie,” Bryan said, “We’ve been looking for you. Well, not just you. Have you seen Martin?”
“I, uh… no. Why?” I’ve been told I blush when I lie, which is not a good trait in the advertising business, but I’d never been told how much of me blushed. I had a feeling my chest was radiating as much heat as my face.
Bryan looked at me suspiciously but it seemed that whatever the issue was, it was more important than questioning me. “There’s a problem in Singapore. The Christmas media campaign for the Vuitton bag. Is that one of yours?”
I shook my head. “Martin’s, I think.”
“Good,” he said. Why was that good, if Martin wasn’t here? “Because it isn’t Martin’s any more. Apparently he started running a competitor’s campaign side-by-side. And I’d hate for you to be the one I had to fire.”
It’s funny, that out of all the things that had happened that evening, running a conflicted campaign was the most shocking. It sounded as if Martin had risked the company’s reputation by managing competing accounts. This could blow up beyond anything the business had ever experienced if we didn’t set things right now.
“The rival campaign has only been running for a few hours,” Bryan said, “And I’m about to call Singapore and explain why we’ve fucked up their Christmas advertising and what we plan to do about it. I need you there.”
“Sure,” I said, and Bryan strode past me with tech Brian in tow. My heart stopped for a moment until I realised they were heading to the large meeting room, not the small one that still contained a naked Martin. Hopefully he knew enough to stay quiet, however it was he was trying to escape. I turned and followed them and, I know it sounds bizarre, but in the heat of the moment I’d forgotten I was naked and should do something about it. This was just so important, and I suppose what better way to troubleshoot client problems than with a toy cowboy hat and a plastic gun, eh?
Bryan had already dialled the client and turned on the speakerphone when I entered the room. I sat at one end of the table with my legs crossed, suddenly reminded that I was naked as my buttocks sank into the leather chair covering.
“Gabriel. Good morning,” Bryan began, “Or rather: not good morning, as it turns out.” It was around ten at night here, which made it six in the morning in Singapore. This was pretty early even by their workaholic standards, which showed how important this was.
“I’m here with Brian from tech,” he nodded at Brian, which was a bit pointless on a speakerphone. Although it was Brian’s cue to say “hi!”, which sounded far too cheery in the circumstances.
“And Natalie who’s going to be taking over the account.”
“Morning, Gabriel.” I called out loudly so the microphone would pick it up. But my heart was racing now: I was going to be taking over the account? This was one of the biggest we had… there was no way Martin would be beating my sales figures next year. Oh yeah, I thought with glee, there was no way Martin was even going to be in the office from tomorrow.
“I’ll let Natalie take things from here,” Bryan said.
Me? This is the first I’ve heard about it and now I’m in charge? I guess it’s a long time since Bryan was hands on with anything, and Brian could do what he was told with technology but was never going to be a decision-maker… so, yeah, I was the most qualified person in the room to sort this out. I took a deep breath.
“The first thing we need to do is to shut down the other campaign,” I said loudly, looking at Brian to check we could do that. He nodded and took out his laptop and began to do I don’t know what, but his fingers moved quickly enough over the keyboard to convince me that something was happening.
“Brian can do that,” I said, since Brian hadn’t confirmed it vocally.
“Wait, did you say Brian can’t do that?” Gabriel called out, “The lines a bit crackly.”
I stood and rested my palms on the table to lean closer to the microphone. I couldn’t miss Bryan’s eyes staring at my breasts hanging down above the shiny white surface and I caught a sight of my reflection in the table top, the cowboy hat still perched on my head. Ah, yes: I’m still naked. This is very surreal.
“No, Brian CAN do this.”
“Ah, good, good… How long will it take?”
I looked at Brian for an answer. “Maybe half an hour, for all the servers to update, and…” He spoke so softly it was almost as if he didn’t want to be heard on the other end so I cut him off.
“Maybe an hour,” I called out loudly, adding a bit of padding for the inevitable tech problems. This gained me a thumbs up from Bryan (but not from Brian, who was back to the keyboard again).
“And what about our campaign?” Gabriel asked.
“That’s running across all target sites,” Bryan confirmed, “And will be unaffected.”
“And what assurances do we have? I mean, you only found this out because we told you…”
“For one,” Bryan said seriously, “Martin will no longer be running campaigns for us. Martin will not be running campaigns for anybody.” I actually felt a tiny amount of sympathy for him. Only a tiny amount. “And it looks like he tried to bury the competitor account under a different company name to fly under the radar, hoping we wouldn’t notice the conflict of interest. We’re going to scour the accounts to make sure there aren’t any more of those.” Bryan looked at me, which meant I was going to be scouring the accounts. Oh joy: a bumper workload just before Christmas. “And I think we’re going to have to keep tabs on our sales incentives in future.”
The implications of what Bryan had just said sunk in: lower bonuses, perhaps? But the main thing was: if Martin had effectively cheated to win then I had effectively… won? Yes, it’s sad, but it really mattered to me. I’d beaten Martin. Never mind that I’d spent the evening with the whole office ogling by body: I’d won. Not just best saleswoman, but best salesperson. I’d come to work naked every day for that.
“Okay, okay, I’ll have to take your word for that,” Gabriel said. Bryan looked at me and I saw the relief on his face: we weren’t being sacked from the account.
“And one more question, for Natalie,” Gabriel continued. I leant closer to the speakerphone, the edge of the table cutting into my thighs. “Why are you naked except for a cowboy hat and… is that a gun belt?”
I stood bolt upright. “What… how… How did you know?”
“Well… we can see you,” Gabriel said, “And if there’s one thing that’s brightened up a disastrous morning here in Singapore, you’re it.”
I looked around the room. “But… we don’t have video on?”
“Don’t you? We do.”
I wobbled the mouse for the conference call screen and saw, yes, Bryan had started the call with video transmitting. He just hadn’t bothered opening the video that was being broadcast from their end.
“I… uh… it’s our office party…” I explained weakly as if that explained everything. I sat down and crossed my arms over my chest to try to cover myself. I know it was a bit late for that but it was instinctive.
And then I began to wonder who exactly the “we” at the other end of the call was. I had only heard Gabriel’s voice… I clicked on the video icon and up popped an image from Singapore; an image of a small meeting room, much like our own, with six men in suits sat around a table and staring up at a big screen on which, I presumed, was being broadcast the image of my naked body, huddled at the end of the large meeting table.
“Your parties look pretty fun!” Gabriel said into the speaker. Oh, jeez: and I was going to be managing this account from now on? I might never live this down.
“Gabriel,” Bryan said loudly, “If we’re done here, can we let you know when the campaign’s shut down and you’re running at one hundred percent.”
“Sure, sure… Just keep us informed. I look forward to working with you, Natalie.”
“Me too,” I called back, and I put my head in my hands as Bryan hung up on the call.
“I’ll stay here and let him know when it’s done,” I told him. At least that would mean I wouldn’t have to go back to the party.
“Sure, sure,” Bryan said with a smile. It was like he didn’t even notice I was naked now as well. But then he looked me up and down and I realised that, happily married or not, he very much did notice I was naked. “Say, uh, shall I have one of the girls bring your clothes up for you?”
I grinned and nodded: I was free! I had won the bet, I had beaten Martin, and I could get my clothes back. “That would be great.”
Bryan took his phone out of his pocked and dialled. It says something about the company culture that the receptionist, who was still downstairs at the party, would answer the chief exec’s call no matter when or where it came.
“Sam… yeah, I’m upstairs… Yeah…. Could you find… you know Natalie’s clothes were somewhere by the stage?… Yeah… Great… Can you bring them upstairs? In the meeting room. Thanks.”
I smiled at him, filled with gratitude that I wouldn’t have to face everyone like this again, joy that I was the best salesperson in the company, and above all the thrill of beating Martin. I. Beat. Martin.
But for all the happiness I felt, the party had already ended for me that night. I would have taken the cowboy hat and gun belt off except for the fact that it would kind of feel like a striptease in front of the Bryan/Brian pairing. It might be fun, but not really appropriate right now. Those two items were the closest things I’d had to clothes for the past couple of hours.
There was the sound footsteps approaching outside; the sound of high heels marching with purpose across the room. It would be Samantha with my clothes; Samantha my saviour.
I expected the meeting room door to open, but her figure flashed passed the window and I realised too late… as there was a loud, shocked scream… that Bryan hadn’t mentioned which meeting room we were in. Well, Martin already had a lot of explaining to do, and being naked, helpless and handcuffed to a chair was the way I hoped the office would always remember him. I know Sam will always think of him that way.