It was damned exasperating, really. Here Amanda had worked as assistant editor at a fashion magazine all these years without getting too hot and bothered by all the female supermodels that came by – most of them struck her as quite insipid, actually – and then the boss had to go and hire his niece and Amanda had been all hot and bothered since.
Tory was her name, short for Victoria. Businesslike, professional, industrious, earnest, she was very fashionable in a drastic sort of way without a trace of showiness or gaucherie. She brazened forth what Amanda inwardly called the “sophist-punk” look: much more of an edge than some mere compromising punk wannabe, and enough class to know exactly what she was doing. No simple profusion of multiple hair dyes and facial hardware would do for this young lady.
And it was about time, in Amanda’s opinion, that there was someone a little more radical, more challenging than the countless blonde Britney Spears clones that had passed through the office one after another. In fact, there was something of the aggressively virginal air about Tory, a slight downward cast of her large dark eye on occasion which bespoke not the ’please don’t touch me, I’m too precious’ wispiness Amanda so deplored whenever she saw it, but more the ’I’m a bit busy for that sort of thing, don’t you think?’ that inspired in Amanda not only a respect for the younger woman’s professionalism but more than one evening in bed accompanied only by a trusty vibrator.
Tory was about average height, thin, and had a wide, gorgeous smile – which betrayed just enough insecurity to make her boldness more of a triumph – and the most marvelous big eyebrows. One side of her head was shaved completely bald. The rest of it was covered in long, witchy jet black hair, heavily moussed, with burgundy highlights. Dark make-up, but not overdone, and no piercings save at the ears, each of which had a large, gold hoop.
Amanda, on the other hand, was old enough to be Tory’s mother, but looked good enough to pass for her older sister. She was much shorter than Tory, and had short dark hair. Amanda generally kept up a traditionally professional look: snug Chanel suits and such, stylishly cut but in conservative colors, such as the one she was wearing today, light grey.
The two were getting along just fine, but the bitch of it was this boss’s niece could easily have got just as good a job without the nepotism, and saved Amanda the distraction. But no, she had to work here, where her presence constantly obtruded upon Amanda’s concentration, distracting her from her work, making her snap at people on the phone, dulling her professional edge, causing her to stop off after work at the newsagents for vibrator batteries . . .
And Amanda knew that Tory had never really noticed how much Amanda liked her – and in what ways. Amanda had sometimes dared to hint to Tory that she found her attractive, but though Amanda was not usually the retiring kind, here she was stymied. Yes, everyone at the office knew Amanda was a lesbian, and that Tory on the other hand apparently had a boyfriend; but that had not precluded, from the mind of hopeful Amanda at least, that the younger woman might have other interests as well. Amanda’s gay radar was not flawless and, though the readings here were not promising, they were not hopeless either. Amanda would sometimes try to tease out of Tory some hint that she just might be interested some time, but of course you had to do this sort of thing in a way that didn’t make you fall flat on your face. “Hi, so, Tory, do you ever have any, you know, lesbian inclinations from time to time?” would have been hopelessly gauche, and of course, would have elicited an emphatic “No”, no matter what the truth was. No, ordinarily straightforward with attractive women she knew were lesbian, Amanda had to fish carefully here, drop hints, look for signs, flirt in a comical way that could be seen simply as straight “girl stuff” on the one hand, or seen with more seriously erotic overtones in case the unforthcoming Tory did have lesbian inclinations after all.
So it was that today, as Tory walked into the photographic studio with her clipboard hugged to her chest, that Amanda greeted her with a comically conspiratorial wink and a, “Hi gorgeous, what’s up?”
Though businesslike as usual, Tory had come to work looking sexier than ever, as far as Amanda was concerned. Tory was very good at this: she could dress so exquisitely and then just simply forget how chic she was as she sat at her desk and worked out schedules for photo shoots or talked on the phone to this or that potential advertiser. She dressed with care and flair, and then just lost herself in her work.
Tory sauntered over to where Amanda was at a desk taking some notes, and looked about her at the ersatz Greek ruins and props that had just been used in one shoot, and were to be used again later that afternoon.
Amanda, really, was undone.
For Tory was hot. She was ever so tightly sheathed in a pair of thick, black leather trousers – a soft leather that seemed to wrap around her legs like jealous rubber. The sturdy trousers were back-zipped and had, intriguingly enough, a kind of small version of a sailor flap, tightly fastened over her front with four sturdy snaps. Her blocky, high-heeled platform boots, lacing three-quarters of the way to the knee, were the perfect match for these trousers. It was just like Tory, furthermore, to soften the outfit with a large, baggy rust-colored peasant shirt of thick cotton, tightly belted at the waist.
Only yesterday Amanda had made her most artful – but as usual unsuccessful – pass at the younger woman. It couldn’t be that she was now teasing Amanda, for Tory had apparently been completely oblivious yesterday to the fact that Amanda had come on to her at all. And even before Amanda had made her pass, Tory had already mentioned that the next day she would likely be wearing her new leather boots and trousers. No, Amanda knew “her” woman better than that: teasing was the furthest thing from the mind of someone like Tory – at least consciously.
“Hi, Amanda,” said Tory cheerfully, holding her clipboard to her chest, as if nothing had happened the previous day, and, from her point of view, it clearly hadn’t.
“Goodness,” said Amanda, trying not to sound too appreciative, “don’t you look nice today.”
Tory spun around once, smiling like the proverbial cat who had swallowed the proverbial canary.
“Where did you get those fabulous trousers?”
“A little shop just around the corner from where I live. It only takes ten minutes to get into them!”
“I’ll bet. They look fabulous,” she said in a low voice.
“Thanks. Now which of these invoices—”
“I really think that cotton and leather combination is perfect for you.”
But Tory was already through with compliments, for she was immediately into her work now. “Mmm-hmm,” she muttered in response, and began to take an inventory of the props, ticking things off her clipboard.
“Tory,” Amanda said, easing up next to her, “can I confess something to you?”
“Sure. Why not?”
Tory bent over to look at the row of urns. They were all on their sides on a table by the wall and there was supposed to be, apparently, some sort of model number on the bottom inside each of them.
Amanda lost her nerve to make the pass she had been preparing, and retreated into idle conversation. “It really would have made more sense to put the model number on the outside, wouldn’t it?”
“Yeah. Even in this light it’s hard to tell.” She peered in.