"The invitation didn't say formal," Josie whispered, her voice panicky as she tried to pull the sweater off of her.
Penelope gripped her arms to stop her before responding, "So you figured an ugly Christmas sweater was the right call?" A glare was sent Penelope's way and the raven-haired girl corrected her statement, "Sorry — an ugly Holiday sweater."
"It's not ugly! It's unique," she huffed. "It has a Menorah, a Christmas tree, a Kinara and — yes, Penelope, it also has a blank spot for any atheists. I'm inclusive," she informed her friend.
Penelope just grinned as she waited for Josie to continue her incessant rant.
Josie made another move to pull the sweater off but Penelope's grip tightened slightly as she kept her from removing it. "Let me take it off. I'd rather be in a bra than this."
"Now that is something I would love to see, but maybe not when your boss's boss's boss is here, okay, JoJo?" Penelope tried, giving her best effort to stop her friend from embarrassing herself further.
Finally, the girl stopped trying to pull it off and muttered, "How many people do you think saw me?"
"Not many," Penelope lied as she helped the girl smooth out her hair before pinning it back.
"We literally just released an article on how dressing down for company parties makes employees feel more comfortable."
"I know, I helped the poor souls who don't know shit about fashion write it," Penelope stated as Josie continued to rant.
"It's a holiday party for christ's sake! Why can't we wear sweaters instead of dresses?"
"Is this your way of saying you don't like my dress? Because here I was thinking I'm the sexiest lady here, besides my best friend of course," Penelope winked at Josie, "in her ugly Holiday sweater."
"It's not ugly," Josie just about growled. She was about to continue when the bathroom door flew open and two crying women came in.
Penelope rolled her eyes as soon as she heard, "but he told me he'd leave his wife and now she's here."
Josie pouted as Penelope pulled her out of the bathroom and down the hall. Her pout turned into a questioning look as the raven-haired girl continued to drag her through the building. "Where are we going?"
"To make out," Penelope deadpanned before opening the door that led to the stairs and motioning for Josie to go.
"Can't we just take the elevator?" she groaned but began walking up the stairs, her friend behind her.
Yeah, Josie was fit and worked out — her reasoning for staying in shape being she wanted to be able to punch hard enough when the intern who was supposed to be making copies found his hand creeping down Josie's backside without her consent as she tried to show him how the machine worked — but she hated doing any activity outside of her designated workout time. She wasn't even wearing her Fitbit. If the steps wouldn't count towards her daily goal, what was the point?
"We take the elevator and more people see you. I'd rather not have to deal with you complaining about that the rest of the night so we're taking the stairs," Penelope explained before adding in a mocking exasperated tone, "And I'm the one wearing heels. Be happy I don't stab you with my stiletto." The raven-haired girl was wearing a rather short dress, because hey, she felt hot and wanted to show it off. It's not like anyone would be complaining of the plunging neckline and wide expanse of skin on display of her toned back. Penelope's job was literally fashion and her talents went to good use with her entire look. Her dress was black and silky. It showed off her curves while remaining only slightly modest. The heels matched, as did her makeup. She had smoldering eyeshadow and her highlighter accentuated her features, but more importantly, she was wearing a dark red lipstick that screamed pure sexual energy. And yes, that was completely Penelope's intention.
Meanwhile, Josie's sweater was beginning to make her itch and she huffed as she continued up the stairs.
Penelope rolled her eyes at the complaints her friend was making. After all, Penelope was the one in heels while her friend was in sneakers. Sneakers. No, Josie did not get to complain about the stairs.
They reached the fashion department and Penelope dragged her through it. "Are we allowed to be here? I've never seen this place so empty," Josie muttered as they walked briskly through it before coming to a closet in the very corner. Penelope motioned for Josie to enter it. "I've spent enough time in the closet, thank you very much," she joked before Penleop pushed her into it.
"I'm going to find you something so hot that everyone will forget about the mess of an outfit they saw."
"You said not a lot of people had seen it," Josie groaned as she watched Penelope move through the racks of clothes. The closet they were in was designated mostly for dressing the company's social media influencers during their sketches and videos. It had a wide variety of options from cowgirl to Madonna-esque costumes. Penelope had found her way to the fancy dresses and jumpsuits by the time Josie had gotten over her complaining.
The raven-haired girl was in deep concentration as she hovered next to a certain section of the rack, her fingers tracing the fabric of a particular dress before gently plucking it from the rack along with a companion. "What color?" Penelope asked as she held up two of the same dress, one in a deep blue and the other in a sinful red.
The dresses were gorgeous.
There was so much detail paid to the stitching that Josie assumed they just had to be hand-stitched. The lace pattern in the quarter length sleeves was luxurious yet the dresses themselves weren't quite screaming glamour and class. The fabric was simple, besides the lace, and while it appeared like it would hug her torso, the bottom portion seemed loose. It looked as if it would stop just above someone's knee.
"JoJo?" Penelope raised an eyebrow waiting for an answer.
"I don't know, I mean, your job is literally fashion. You pick," Josie breathed out as she continued to admire the dresses. She hadn't seen anything so expensive-looking yet simple. Josie recognized Penelope knew her well by choosing the style of dress and Josie's heart may have fluttered at the thought of the girl paying so much attention to her but she quickly brushed aside her feelings. After, all they were friends. Best friends. The bestest of friends who happened to do everything together and never dated anyone because duh, they were too busy with their jobs.
It wasn't like they were in love with each other or anything.
The red dress was thrust in her hands as Penelope gave her friend a smirk. "You'll look absolutely ravenous in red."
Josie fought a blush, not succeeding very well as she noticed Penelope's smirk grow. The brunette began to pull the sweater off, not intimidated at her friend watching because it's totally normal for friends to get undressed in front of each other. It's platonic. No biggie. It's not like Josie was trying to show off her toned stomach that she had done, like, a million crunches for, or show off her new bra that made her breasts look amazing.
Not at all trying to show off.
It didn't really matter though, because Penelope, being the gentlewoman that she prided herself on being, turned around quickly, allowing Josie to undress without prying eyes.
If the brunette felt disappointed, she ignored it and began undressing. By the time she was slipping on the dress, she realized something was off. "Um, Pen? My bra isn't going to work with this dress." The neckline and collar of the dress would show Josie's bra straps and while sometimes that could be a look, it would not be one with the particular dress she had on.
Penelope turned around slowly and hesitated for a brief second, her eyes trailing over every visable inch of her friend's skin. Josie saw a look pass over Penelope's face but it was covered up by a smirk before she could decipher it. "Guess you won't be wearing a bra," she said in a sultry tone as she took a few steps towards Josie and spun her around. "May I?" she asked softly as her hands hovered next to Josie's back, waiting for consent.
Josie wasn't sure she could speak with the way Penelope's voice sounded, all throaty and lustful, so she nodded instead. She figured the raven-haired girl was just teasing with the sexy voice, as it was a very Penelope thing to do. The girl was a flirt and Josie loved it, but in moments like this, it made her feel things she knew she shouldn't be feeling for a friend.
As soon as Penelope's fingers brushed over her back, Josie's skin was on fire. She felt the clasp of the bra give and Penelope help pull the straps down from her shoulder, one after the other. Josie felt herself pull the bra off, leaving her chest bare. Her mind couldn't form a coherent thought as the dopamine ran through her brain, the pleasure making her want and want and—
"You need help with the sleeves or can I go and pick you out a pair of heels?" Penelope asked, her voice tainted with a hint of something Josie couldn't quite place.
She cleared her throat and finished getting dressed by pulling her arms into the sleeves. The material felt invitingly soft and the brunette sighed.
"Nice, huh?" her friend asked as she rummaged at the bottom of the racks for a pair of matching heels. "It's a Versace we never ended up using for last week's video."
"The one about wearing designer clothes to work for a week? That video did really well," Josie noted as her fingers struggled to pull up the zipper at the back of the dress.
"Of course it did. I helped dress everyone involved and as you've learned from today, I am a genius at this."
"I mean, it is your job to know fashion," Josie teased, turning to face her friend who had just muttered a score! at finding a pair of heels.
"It is not, my dear Josette, my job to dress you. You're lucky you're cute or I would've left you stuck in that sweater all night." Penelope set the heels next to Josie's feet before noticing the girl pulling at the zipper. "Woah, careful there, JoJo." The raven-haired girl brushed aside Josie's hands and replaced them with her own. She lightly pulled on the zipper and hummed with satisfaction as it began to slide up. Penelope gently threaded her hand through Josie's hair, moving it aside to finish sliding the zipper up. Josie tried not to read to much into Penelope's fingers brushing the nape of her neck. She finally stepped away and allowed Josie to slip into the heels as she admired her handiwork.
"What'ya think?" she asked, turning Josie to face a mirror in the very corner of the closet.
Josie was at a loss for words. While it was a bit longer than she surmised it was supposed to be, it looked natural. The outfit wasn't just beautiful, it really was sinful. Penelope chose correctly going with the red. Josie wasn't wearing a lot of makeup, her hair wasn't done up in any special way, and she hadn't done her nails, but she felt like a goddess, and not just because of the dress. The way Penelope was looking at her made her feel like Aphrodite, enchanting and sexy.
Josie's eyes were focused on Penelope and Penelope's eyes were focused on Josie.
It was surprisingly Josie who broke the silence, "Should I, um, do something different with my hair?"
Penelope seemed a bit dazed as she responded, "It looks nice pinned back but maybe a low messy bun?"
She nodded and began to run her hands through her hair. As she worked on her hair, Penelope watched, a portion of her bottom lip between her teeth as her eyes traced over Josie. She was broken from her trance as Josie stuck out her hand for a hairband. Penelope grabbed one from a box of unused hair supplies and helped Josie with the finishing touches.
"How do I look?" Josie asked, turning to face her friend.
"Not appropriate for a holiday party."
Josie grinned and took Penelope's hand, interlacing their fingers as she tugged her out of the closet (ha!) and over to the elevator. "I'm not walking in heels down a flight of stairs. I don't understand how you're so effortless in yours."
"What can I say? I'm magical." Penelope winked.
(Josie may or may not have slightly stumbled, standing still, because of that wink.)
"A magical nuisance," she muttered as the elevator doors opened and they stepped inside. There wasn't anyone else in it and Penelope could feel the anxiety rolling off of Josie as the doors dinged after reaching the floor of the party.
"Hey, you look beautiful. And hot and sexy and intelligent and—"
Josie blushed and took the slightest step closer to her friend, a small smile on her face as she leaned in and brushed her lips against Penelope's cheek, shutting the girl up. "Thank you, Pen. I mean it," she said, her eyebrows knitting together as she emphasized her words. "You went above and beyond."
"Well, your sexy sweater is still up there so don't thank me yet. We'll have to sneak back up there and then out of here before this whole shebang is over," she teased, motioning the party.
"Oh so now it's sexy?" Josie rolled her eyes humorously. "And it won't be so bad. I just need a drink or two in me before I face anyone who saw me in that sweater."
It was only when Penelope pulled away to get her friend a drink that they both realized they'd been holding hands the entire time.
It had been a couple of hours and the two were mingling separately from one another. Josie was making her rounds, wishing happy holidays to her coworkers and trying not to make eye contact with the people she knew had seen her in the sweater. Josie had been given countless compliments, a few coworkers going as far as hitting on her. She polity declined any invitations to the "after-party" people had been whispering about and chose to move to the next person.
It wasn't until she felt a warm presence behind her that she finally stayed in one place for more than a few minutes. "Penelope."
"JoJo," she teased, handing her friend a glass of punch. "No worries, I spiked this one."
"Well now I am worried," she laughed lightly, taking a sip and humming in approval of the alcohol she had desperately needed.
"I saw Hope and Landon come in together so I figured you might need something a little stronger than Kathy's organic punch."
Josie shrugged in response, taking another sip of the beverage. "It's been long enough."
"He cheated on you with her. That's not just something you—"
"It was more complicated than that, Pen. We never defined our relationship as exclusive and Hope hardly knew Landon was seeing me at the time."
Penelope huffed and crossed her arms. "Well, it still sucks. You seemed like you had a crush on her too, so that must've made it worse."
"She's Hope Mikaelson. She's the star of this company. The brand and the YouTube celebrity who is down to earth and smells nice. She gave us more online clicks than BuzzFeed and more magazines sold than Cosmo. Of course I had a crush on her. Who wouldn't?"
"Fair enough," the raven-haired girl sighed and watched the two people they'd been talking about dance clumsily.
"I don't have a crush on her anymore," Josie murmured softly, her hand resting on Penelope's tense forearm, "for the record." She didn't know why she felt the need to tell Penelope that, but she did it anyway.
Penelope looked back and Josie and nodded. "Okay."
There was a long silence not uncomfortable, but not pleasant before Penelope's eyes went wide and her she straightened. "Oh fuckity shit."
"What?" When her friend didn't respond, Josie tugged on her arm. "Penelope, what is it?"
"Uh, we need to go. Like now." Penelope dragged Josie back to the elevator and began pressing the button continuously.
"You know, that's not going to speed it up," Josie said, swatting Penelope's hand away from the button. The doors dinged open and Josie gave her friend an I told you so look before Penelope was dragging her into the elevator. "Okay, seriously, what happened?"
Once the doors closed, her friend sighed in relief and turned to Josie. "So, I might have lied when I said that the dress was for last week's video."
Josie's face turned a bit pale as she raised her eyebrows, waiting for her friend to continue.
"I was supposed to do a few alterations and get it ready for the annual catwalk video next month."
"Penelope," Josie groaned, not wanting her friend to continue.
The doors opened and they both made their way back to the closet.
"And I sorta maybe was not supposed to let anyone in it. Or touch it. Or breathe next to it because it's sorta one of a kind. Well, two of a kind, just in blue," she tried joking.
"Don't say what think you're about to say."
"I won't. Donatella Versace herself didn't approve the dress but those directly under her did. It's really not that big of a deal. We just gotta get you out of this before my boss asks where I went and catches us up here."
"Penelope!" Josie hissed as she struggled to pull the zipper down.
"Chill. You pulled it off magnificently. If anything, he might approve of you walking the show in this," she said seriously and took over pulling the zipper down.
"Why would you pick this dress, of all of them, for me tonight? That was the most stupid thing you could've done," she huffed.
"I knew you'd look like a vision in this. Which you do." The zipper was pulled down and Josie turned around to face Penelope.
"Anything in here would've worked, Penelope. Do you want us both to get fired?"
"You're wearing a dress that I made alterations to. And it fits you perfectly. Who do you think I based this dress off of?"
Penelope had once told her that all great designers had a model in mind as they make or alter a dress. She would go on about the models she could only dream of working with, from size zero to size 28, to different genders, to different ethnicities, to celebrities and to people she saw walking their dog. Penelope wanted to design and to alter and to create. So of course Josie allowed her to measure her every once and a while. It was the friendly thing to do. She wanted to help Penelope practice measuring and altering.
She never thought Penelope would actually use those measurements for anything. Especially for a dress that costed more than her rent for three months.
"But did you ask your boss?"
Penelope waved a hand as if the brush the question away. "It's better to ask for forgiveness than permission. Anyway, he'd let me get away with murder. I just don't want him seeing the dress on you until it's completely done."
Josie relaxed significantly at the fact that her boss was indeed a pushover and they wouldn't get in too much trouble before she realized what Penelope had said and frowned. "What's not done?"
"It's a little long. I want it hanging shorter," Penelope murmured, her hand falling to the edge of the dress just under Josie's knee. "May I?" she asked, wanting permission before she would move her hand up. The brunette nodded, the mood suddenly changing as she felt Penelope's fingers creep under the material of the dress. Her fingers lit a tingling path as they traveled agonizingly slow before stopping mid-thigh. "Right here," she whispered, no longer bent over and instead straightened. When Josie opened her eyes, she realized how close they were.
Neither one was sure who kissed whom first but after a few seconds of both girls glancing between each other's eyes and lips, one of them kissed the other. Or they both did. Either way, it didn't really matter.
It was an innocent kiss, chaste yet lingering, and over quickly when Josie tripped over herself and Penelope had to tug on her waist to hold her up.
And thus, they were set up in a perfect position to do it again.
So they did.
This time, the two explored each other. Penelope's mouth tasted like the whiskey she'd spiked the drinks with and Josie could feel the lipstick being smudged onto her own lips. To Penelope, Josie tasted like the strawberry mints she always teased the girl about popping like candy. Penelope never tried them, but if Josie's mouth tasted anything like them, she figured she might have to start.
Josie felt hot. It was like someone lit a flame inside of her and it wouldn't stop spreading through her mind and heart and veins and skin. It only grew when she breathed out Penelope's name and the girl answered her by pushing her against a rack of clothes and kissing her with more fervor. Josie's hair was a mess from the friction of the clothes but mostly from Penelope's fingers tangling themselves into the locks and pulling her impossibly closer. Josie's hands moved to Penelope's back, and a moan was released at the feel of skin, the sound swallowed by the raven-haired girl's mouth.
It was only when hangers began falling from the rack that Josie realized what they were doing. She pulled her lips away but was still being held up by Penelope and, well, the rack of clothes. "We really shouldn't be doing this," she breathed out, her lungs filling themselves with the air she'd been lacking.
"I don't know, this feels rather nice," Penelope responded, her fingers running through Josie's hair while her other hand supported the brunette's waist. She brushed her lips against Josie's neck, lightly kissing the skin above the girl's frantically beating pulse.
Josie began to forget all the reasons why kissing her best friend was a bad idea and began to just feel.
"We can stop if you want." Penelope's lips trailed from the girl's pulse to her exposed collarbone as the sleeves of the dress began falling slightly. She pulled away after a brief moment, not wanting to tempt Josie into making a decision.
"I don't want to stop," she admitted, the words falling from her mouth with ease.
Penelope leaned back to Josie's mouth but stopped mere millimeters from her lips. "For the record, I would still kiss you in the ugly Christmas sweater."
Penelope brought her lips to Josie's, effectively shutting the both of them up.