“One thing is clear. We are in the homestretch of this election,” Jory remarked to the camera.
He probably believed that if he said those words enough, he could will them into existence. At least, that’s what Sansa suspected.
Jory glanced at Sandor Clegane, the seasoned but surly anchor holding down the prime-time election coverage next to the Magic Map. He deftly handled that thing like a well-oiled machine, jabbing at the screen to cycle through counties and states still up for grabs in a nail-biter of an election.
“If you say that often enough, it’s bound to be true eventually, but not yet,” Sandor retorted to Sansa’s tremendous glee, a positive development in an otherwise grueling past few days covering the election results.
We think alike, she noted dreamily to herself behind the blank facade of placid indifference. She’d chosen an odd profession for someone whose emotions rapidly surfaced on her face. A glass head, the producer called it. From off camera, he’d silently mouth “fix your face”. That meant she was too smiley, too angry, too irritated, too something.
“Thank you, Sandor. We’ll check in again when we get more results. This race is getting tighter by the minute.”
For the love of God, they all just wanted to call this and resume normalcy again. They were in the eleventh hour. The vibe in the studio buzzed in sleep-deprived delirium of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. They’d all been shot-gunning Red Bull and woofing down catered meals whenever they got a second to breathe.
“Tight indeed,” Sandor rasped, and his eyes landed squarely on Sansa who sat at the correspondent’s desk in her navy-blue dress and white blazer. The outfit was entirely inappropriate given the searing studio lights. She was hot, burning up. Her cheeks blazed.
Sandor was looking at her. Did he smile? No, his mouth just twitched. It’d been doing that the past few days. She noticed these things about him—his little quirks; his emotional tells. Unlike her, he kept his thoughts and feelings safely guarded behind a stoic reserve. It only broke when he was angry or irritated, and even then his favorite outlet was unending sass he wielded like a sword to cut people down to size. They usually deserved it.
He’d barely slept the past few days. His commentary at the map had become more cutting, his patience waning, his composure thinning. The man was loaded up with caffeine. So was she. They’d been at it for days, long nights, a few hours of sleep here and there. The makeup and hair crew worked wonders. They’d spackled a metric ton of concealer beneath Sansa’s eyes. Somehow her husk of a body looked fresh-faced and bright-eyed for the cameras. Underneath, she was dying to climb into her sweatpants, draw the blinds shut, and sleep for days on end. She needed a vacation. They all needed a vacation.
Sandor was still looking at her. His eyes narrowed and brows furrowed. Shit. Of course, he was looking. That was silly. Everyone was looking at her. Wait. Everyone was looking at her. Did Jory say something? She couldn’t remember.
“Sansa, over to you to check on the number of outstanding votes in Highgarden,” Jory repeated with a tense smile. His eyes flashed with fatigue-induced agitation.
Sansa froze. Her perfectly rouged lips parted. Behind the cameraman, her producer’s eyes bulged. If she remained reticent any longer, they’d roll out of his head. She released a ragged exhale, hoped like hell her lapel mic didn’t pick that up, and focused on fixing her face. She gave a smile, but a nervous laugh escaped her too. It wasn’t supposed to.
“Thank you, Jory and Sandor.” Her voice quavered over his name. Her fingers trembled as she tapped the iPad screen with the stylus to reload the counts.
“As we know, any moment now we will receive another batch of votes. The Secretary of State has said they are just waiting for those votes to be adjudicated. I’m looking here.” She paused momentarily and scanned the iPad screen. She’d been staring at it all day, and yet she couldn’t find the information she was looking for. Sandor shifted in her periphery. “They’ve said upwards of 25,000 votes should be incoming, but we don’t know exactly how many to expect or what the composition will be—provisional ballots, mail-in ballots—that all remains to be seen.”
Sansa gulped down a breath. Was she supposed to say something else? The silence now dragged on for eternity. Sandor had watched her the whole time. She felt his penetrating gaze. Sweat beaded her brow. These damn lights! Also, how was it possible for someone to stand as sexy as he did? Was that a thing?
She didn’t know. It was the suit probably. Those suits fit him like a glove. He had to have them tailored, or so it was told. He was too tall and too muscular; no normal man was built like him. His hair was combed back in a long ponytail, unconventional for a news anchor, but he didn’t give a shit. He didn’t care about looking the part. Scars marred half his face from some childhood accident; at least that was the rumor. She didn’t know if it was true and wouldn’t be asking him anytime soon. As it stood, Sansa could barely manage enough words to chat casually with him between segments. Half the time, her words came out jumbled and the other half she felt like she was going to collapse in on herself like a sad, shy, blubbering mess of nerves.
She was losing it. They were all losing it, but she was especially losing it, and Sandor Clegane was slowly driving her to madness with the effortlessly alluring way he carried himself. She’d hide in the delirium of election coverage, and the viewers at home might toss her some good graces.
“Those poor news anchors and correspondents. They must be exhausted,” they’d say.
She was exhausted. She was also perpetually turned on, wet between the legs, drifting off into daydreams when her job demanded focus. To make matters worse (or better, perhaps; the jury was still out), most of their coverage centered on the Magic Map—that “high-tech” touch screen where election results poured in. It was a colossal hit with the viewers; so too was the man running the map.
Sandor towered next to the screen and Sansa would watch from across the studio, transfixed like everyone else. That was the other benefit. Hordes of producers, directors, content editors all crowded around, waiting on bated breath for election results and commenting on how incredibly on-point Sandor had been throughout the entire week. In the cable news industry, if you had it, you just had it; that “je ne sais quoi” of tact, precision, wit, and fluid ability to adapt and perform. He was nontraditional, but Sandor had it. When he was good, he was really good. And the man was routinely good.
Jory resumed his role and spoke the words all of them waited to hear—those magical words of temporary reprieve from this madness.
“Let’s take a quick break. Stay with us for more election coverage as the race reaches its last stages.”
After a three-second pause, the studio released a collective sigh and broke with a flurry of activity. People dashed for the bathroom. The producer nitpicked something or another. The anchors shouted expletives—all the pent-up “fucks” and “shits” and “cunts” released like steam from a pressure cooker.
Sansa slipped from her desk and carefully ensured her heels were planted to the floor. Her knees felt numb and her stomach was queasy with butterflies as she kept a healthy distance behind Sandor and Jory on the way backstage.
“You need to go to makeup, Sansa,” the producer shouted. “You stopped ‘glowing’ ten minutes ago and now you just look like the sweaty kid in PE class.”
Great. She gritted her teeth and begrudgingly gave a thumbs up to avoid another finger flying in its place. She didn’t turn around. Sandor, on the other hand, glanced over his shoulder at her. His lips lifted lightly in a teasing smile, and she thought he might say something to her. He turned to Jory instead.
“If this shit ain’t over by tonight, I’m calling it myself. The network can get fucked.”
Sansa tried not to eavesdrop. It was a herculean effort. His voice bellowed down the hall on the way to makeup and hair. She watched the way he walked—a lumbering gait, his massive shoulders squared, his chin lifted. He walked with pride. He walked like a man with a purpose. Margaery, a political commentator, once said that all men with huge dicks walked with a certain swagger to avoid friction. Sansa hadn’t gotten the image out of her head since.
She slipped into the makeup and hair room as Sandor and Jory continued down the hall. She plopped in a chair with a frustrated sigh.
“Hey love, I’ll be with you in a second,” Myranda chirped and fussed with another anchor’s false eyelashes, one of which was hanging on for dear life and not much else.
“No worries,” Sansa muttered.
She stared at herself in the mirror. She wasn’t sweaty. At least, not right now. Her makeup was surviving yet another day, and her hair had somehow held its waves. She pouted anyhow. She was never the sweaty kid in PE.
Familiar footfalls sounded in the hall—the telltale, syncopated rhythm of a man who managed a huge dick when he walked. He was coming this way. He was coming into the room. Dear God, he was coming up behind her! Sansa’s back straightened, and she nervously combed her fingers through her hair. She craned her neck as Sandor sunk into the chair next to her.
“Hey,” was all he said and pulled his hair free from the hair tie and shook it out.
Was he doing that on purpose? Sansa watched the long, raven strands tumble about his shoulders. He looked like one of those Herbal Essences commercials, somehow sexualizing something as mundane as hair. The thing was—he wasn’t doing it on purpose, she knew, but if anyone had hair worth sexualizing for capitalism, it was probably this man with his soft locks that she so badly wanted to run her fingers through. Sandor tapped at his phone that looked small in his hands. Don’t stare at him.
Sansa settled back in her seat and tried to look casual and opted for twirling her hair before deciding that did not look casual.
“Hey,” she finally replied after a healthy intervening space of silence, long enough that perhaps he forgot she was here.
Sandor’s eyes flicked from his phone to her and he gave a little smile—a pity smile, perhaps—but ultimately continued swiping at his screen.
Myranda hurried towards Sansa’s chair, but lifted the loose strands of Sandor’s hair along the way. “Why the fuck do you do this to me? Now I have to do your hair all over again.”
“You know you love playing with it,” he quipped without missing a beat and without removing his eyes from his phone. He was funny, too. That was the other thing. This man had a wicked sense of humor, not the typical try-hard kind. Sansa giggled and that, of all things, drew his eyes to her.
She swallowed hard and gathered her courage. Honestly, she’d been gathering it for almost a full year. Every week, she managed more words around him, more confidence, more of her ability to function like a normal adult in his presence. Some witty phrase bubbled at the back of her throat. She’d wow him with her charm one of these days. Maybe today was that day. She opened her mouth to speak, but Myranda screeched behind her.
“Why are you so pink?”
Sansa’s gaze snapped to the mirror. The blush on her cheeks had oozed down her neck in blotches. And her chest! Why the hell was she blotchy there too? Why couldn’t she blush prettily like those ladies in fairytales—a nice, kissed by the sun pink and not a “do you need an EpiPen for that?” pink?
“Are you sick?” The back of Myranda’s hand landed at Sansa’s forehead with a hard whack.
Sansa flinched as Myranda dabbed her sweaty face with a blotting sheet. “No. Those lights out there are really hot.”
“Really? I mean, Jesus, girl, you’re so flushed. Are you always this hot out there?”
Sandor laughed at that, or maybe it was something on his phone. There were so many memes flying around. That was surely it. She shifted her eyes in his direction. He was staring at her in the mirror. Damn.
“I don’t know,” Sansa dismissed with a flustered shrug. She closed her eyes as Myranda dusted powder across her nose and cheeks.
She knew. She knew damn well. It wasn’t the lights. It was the man sitting next to her who smelled so good, she now noticed in the black behind her eyes. She opened them again and Sandor smirked at her when she met his gaze in the mirror. Did he know the origin of her blotchy blushing? Her eyes darted away, and she cleared her throat.
An awkward silence filled the small room as Myranda misted Sansa’s face with setting spray and brushed out her hair. Suddenly, Sansa’s witty statement died on the tip of her tongue. Sandor had put his phone away. God, say something, Sansa.
Myranda settled behind Sandor and ran the brush—the same one that had just been through Sansa’s hair—through his.
“Pink’s a good color on you,” he said, but his gaze fell to Sansa’s hands in her lap. Myranda rolled her eyes. Sansa’s mind blanked.
A compliment. He just gave her a compliment, but then why did it feel like he was making a crude joke? He’d licked his bottom lip and his left eye did that thing where it wasn’t quite a wink but well on its way. He did that to the camera sometimes when he said something that was so clearly a double entendre. The network couldn’t even get mad at him. The ratings soared when Sandor was on. His one-liners constantly trended on Twitter. He was uncouth, scarred, and ornery—not the typical news anchor. Whatever he was doing, whatever his recipe for success was, the viewers ate it up. Sansa did too.
“Oh, thank you,” she exhaled and, though she fought the smile on her lips, it came anyway; no stopping that train. “I like your suit. It looks good on you.”
Just when she worried it was too much, Sandor shifted in his seat towards her as Myranda gathered his hair in a rubber band.
“What are you gonna do after this?” he asked. The end was in sight now. It was a reasonable question. She honestly hadn’t thought about it; no time and no sense when this thing had dragged out for days.
“Sleep,” she laughed and propped her elbow on the chair’s arm. Her chin rested in her hand. “What about you?”
He stared at his reflection in the mirror for a moment. “Take the edge off. Drink.” His eyes swept over her body again. Elevator eyes. He paid her those sometimes, but then again she’d seen him do that with other female correspondents too. “Maybe a few other stress-relieving activities.”
Oh no. This was one of his sex-laden quips. She didn’t know how to respond to these. What was she supposed to say—I can help? Good luck with that? Sounds fun? Sansa swallowed hard.
He’d loosened his tie and lost his suit jacket. His dress shirt was rolled to his forearms. As if the muscular definition there wasn’t enough, the tattoos were icing on an already delectable cake. Maybe he had more. Maybe she would ask. Who was she kidding? Sansa merely gaped at him, wide-eyed and tongue-tied. Remember your courtesies. That was easier said than done.
“I know you’ve heard this a lot the past few days, but you’re doing such an amazing job,” Sansa veritably gushed. Here she went—waxing poetic over him, but now to his face. She shook her head to knock loose the instinct. “I’m so impressed.”
It wasn’t a lie. He was impressive. Everyone said so. He was crushing it, at the top of his game, knocking it out of the park. Sansa had heard every iteration of analogy that all boiled down to one thing—Sandor Clegane was really good at his job, and if there was one thing Sansa found incredibly sexy, it was competence.
He gave a slow nod and exhaled a laugh. “Impressed,” he repeated.
But then there was humility. Something about a competent yet humble man would do her in. Case closed. Call it. It was what she wanted and the way he stared at his hands and didn’t expound on her compliment said that he was that kind of man. She already knew and had seen it. He didn’t bask in his own glory.
Sansa released a long breath and felt the tension in her body ease.
“What? You don’t think so?” she playfully prodded.
He thought it over, eyed Myranda in the mirror, and didn’t respond until she wandered over to Margaery, who would soon start the overnight shift. The women chattered excitedly, all but forgetting Sansa and Sandor.
He leaned forward as if he were about to relay a secret, something he didn’t want the others to hear. Sansa matched his move and observed up close how very nice his gray eyes were.
“No, I know when I’m good at something and when I’m not. And I’m good at my job, along with a few other things.” His eyes fell with deliberate weight to her lap again, only now her hands weren’t there or anything else that would’ve reasonably garnered his attention, except…perhaps… “Some might even say I’m impressive at them.”
Sex. He was talking about sex. Was he talking about sex? His eyes darkened, his lids were heavy, his gaze penetrated as he stared at her with a devilish smirk.
“It’s good to have hobbies.”
She blew it. It’s good to have hobbies. Really, Sansa? The man was talking about sex, for God’s sake, and she uttered quite possibly the most cringe-worthy thing she’d ever said. He must’ve taken it as banter, though. A mere smirk before, he paid her a painfully handsome smile now and a nod of appreciation. That was worse. He’d think she was a master banter-er, that she’d fire these zingers right back at him.
“I better get back out there,” he said on a deep rumble and stood.
“Bye,” she sighed like a lovelorn idiot.
It was hot in here too. She’d start sweating again. The whole point of coming in here was to resume her effervescent and impossible glow, not to look like that kid in PE who was forced to run another lap around the track.
“Hey darling!” Margaery called out from the next chair over. “You surviving?”
No. She was dying of desire and fumbling it with embarrassing comebacks to her crush’s saucy flirtations.
“Yeah, hanging in there,” Sansa replied with a false smile and empty self-assurance.
Margaery dramatically swiveled towards Sansa. “Oh my God! Have you been watching the map man like I have? He’s so fucking hot.”
Sansa could’ve sworn Sandor wasn’t Margaery’s type. That girl went through male anchors like a tourist at a Las Vegas buffet—one of everything and a couple times over; all but Sandor and the super old men who were brought in as “Back in my day…” political pundits. Sansa needed this outlet, though. She’d gushed to her sister about Sandor but kept her mouth shut around the studio. The walls talked in this place.
“Oh, thank God,” Sansa breathed. “I’m so happy I’m not the only one. I can barely concentrate.”
“I know, right? Those fingers!”
His fingers, indeed! Only fingers like Sandor Clegane’s could make geography tantalizing. “Let’s look at what’s happening in Lannisport county right now.” Never had she cared so much about that county or any other county, but if Sandor’s fingers were heading for Lannisport, Sansa was intrigued and mesmerized and wanted nothing more than to look at what was happening there.
She had been quietly remarking to herself that the magic wasn’t the map. The magic was his fingers—long, thick, deft fingers. He was smart too; well-spoken, decisive and deliberate with his words that toed the line. A maverick in their industry—people either loved or loathed him. The viewers largely appreciated his honesty and blunt manner of speaking.
Sansa appreciated the way he looked in a tailored suit, the way his ass filled out jeans when he rolled into the studio with his leather jacket casually tossed over his shoulder and aviators obscuring his eyes. She really appreciated the deep timbre of his voice; that rumbling baritone way he spoke and laughed and didn’t mince words, not even in front of the camera or perhaps especially in front of the camera.
No one could ever say that Sansa Stark didn’t appreciate her coworkers. It just so happened she appreciated that tall, muscled, mercurial man who she swore to God swiped, caressed, and handled that map in ways that imitated how he might touch a woman.
“He’s so tall too,” Sansa swooned; a man she could wear heels around and feel tiny next to instead of an Amazon on the arm of some shrimpy guy. “I just…mmm!”
Margaery’s laugh didn’t match the confusion on her face. She wasn’t befuddled enough to stop girl talk, though. “I heard he graduated from Harvard a few years ago and his family is rich,” she divulged with coquettish glee.
It seemed odd for Sandor; not impossible, but off-brand. Sansa hummed a response as she rolled it over in her head. It made no sense.
“Really? Was he taking night classes? I thought he’s been at the network for a while now. And I didn’t know he had a rich family. He never talks about that.”
He was humble; an aberration of the typical, perfectly put-together anchors who graduated from fancy schools and came from the right bloodlines. This made even less sense. Had she gotten him all wrong? Surely not.
“Who?” Margaery’s upturned nose wrinkled and her expertly plucked brows folded. Myranda stared at Sansa too.
“Map man,” Sansa said with an inflection at the end, half a question.
Margaery squeezed the bridge of her nose. “Wait, are you talking about Harry or Sandor?”
She’d forgotten all about Harry Hardyng—the up-jumped intern who’d somehow landed his spot at the map during overnight hours when no one was watching and therefore no one would care how he sometimes couldn’t do math or fumbled with the screen. He was a pretty boy—hard-parted hair, Brooks Brothers suits, hideous cufflinks he swore were designer. Sansa also heard a rumor that Harry demanded from a member of the cleaning crew “do you know who I am?” when the guy was only trying to do his job. The janitor had responded, “You’re map boy.”
“Who are you talking about?” Sansa asked, although the answer was already clear.
“Harry, of course!” Margaery squealed before a look of disgust fell over her pretty face. “God, Sandor is crude. He got so drunk at last year’s Christmas party.
“Oh lord, I remember that,” Myranda groaned as she ran a flat iron through Margaery’s hair.
Sansa remembered it too, but it looked different—and felt different—in her memories. She was still just a field correspondent then, but in talks to renew her contract as a studio correspondent. Fresh blood in the big city, she’d solidified her invite to the Christmas party and immediately overlooked the handsome and polished anchors who sloppily and drunkenly tried to welcome her into the fold. Her eyes had been on Sandor from the start. He wasn’t her typical type. That was the appeal. She didn’t want her type anymore. She was tired of her type. Her type was pompous, disappointing, and selfish. Sandor was brusque, lewd, and brazen enough to hit the open bar hard at the Christmas party, uninterested in rubbing elbows and putting on a forced smile.
Yes, he’d gotten drunk. And yes, some might say he stirred the rumor mill, but unlike all the pencil-dick interns who couldn’t hold their alcohol, Sandor could hold his just fine; fine enough that he snuck off with some blonde correspondent from the west coast. Apparently, a network big shot caught them in the editing room. The girl was sent back to the field. Sandor was given a stern talking to. Rumors flew. The men lauded him as a hero. The women loathed him as a scoundrel. And Sansa had felt the bittersweet sting of jealousy for a man who’d only said a grand total of ten words to her at that point. Oh, but those ten words, though…
Her heart fluttered. Heat hit her cheeks. She wanted to sigh much like Margaery was now. The girl’s eyes lifted to the ceiling and a dreamy breath escaped her lopsided lips.
“But Harry...” Margaery cooed. “Harry is—”
“Harry is map boy. Map man is Sandor,” Sansa declared with the snippy gusto of a woman whose boyfriend had been disrespected by a pack of fools and she needed to teach these clowns a lesson in showing some respect.
If she was being perfectly honest, he was map daddy. Late one night, Sansa had gotten curious about his apparent social media following and looked for herself. She wasn’t the only one who admired the way he worked the map. In fact, he had a growing coalition of women and some men thirsting after him, enough that someone dubbed him “map daddy”. Sansa had turned the phrase over in her mind. It suited him. She’d gone to sleep with it and even dreamed about him.
“Sansa, we need you out there,” a voice manifested in the doorway. She spun around in the chair to a production assistant who looked on the brink of a nervous breakdown. She stood from her seat, waved goodbye to Margaery and Myranda, and hurried down the hall and to her spot at the correspondent’s desk. She settled in the seat and graciously accepted a bottle of water.
She sipped on it and scanned the studio. Sandor stood next to the map wall and silently studied his note cards. Jory worked out the finer points of his intro with the producer. Activity buzzed around her. Sansa hid within the chaos and leveraged it as an excuse to eye Sandor. Back in his suit jacket, he tugged at the tie around his neck. He hated wearing ties. In fact, he hated the whole get-up and had been pushing for months for some freedom in his wardrobe—lose the tie, trash the pocket square, bin the cufflinks.
“Quiet on set!” the producer shouted. “We’re going live in…5…4…3…2…”
He never said “one,” but pointed at Jory, who delivered his intro with professional ease, a voice of reason and poise the viewers had come to respect. He foiled Sandor nicely, their on-screen give-and-take natural and their banter candid.
“Let’s head over to the magic map and the man himself, Sandor Clegane, to look at the numbers we’re seeing in Karhold county because it’s looking on the brink of flipping and it could take the state with it, am I right?”
Jory approach the map wall and gestured to Sandor, who tapped at the screen. The map zoomed in on the county. Sansa watched intently.
“That’s absolutely right,” Sandor replied. “Now remember, this is the most populous county in the state and we’re still a long way off from getting a final count. Look at this.”
His finger swiped the screen in one quick touch and a flick of the wrist. He has such nice hands.
Strong hands. Rough hands. His veins rippled beneath the skin. His fingers swept across the screen again. Sansa stopped listening. Sandor gestured to the camera. He carried himself with so much confidence, exuding sheer masculinity.
“…over here…look at this…87% of the votes are in. Now if they continue to trend as they have been—and we think they will—that means the majority of these votes are going towards…”
He did that thing again. He was so tall he could drape his forearm on top of the screen, and sometimes he’d do that while casually flicking the map with his fingers. Sansa bit her bottom lip. He shook his head at something he just said and scratched at the stubble on his chin. He’d been at this all day, and that meant his five o’clock shadow was coming in. He pointed at the camera and stared directly at the lens. A power move, though he didn’t mean for it to be. He was just that way. The viewers loved it. Sansa loved it too.
“I want to take you to Dorne county now. We haven’t paid a lot of attention here. Forget what’s going on everywhere else. Let’s go.”
Yes, take us! Sansa leaned forward in her seat, her focus singular and intent.
“I want to focus right here.” A new move, Sandor bundled his forefinger and middle finger together and slowly circled a statistic that popped up on the screen. The movement was distinct enough that she caught it, suggestive enough that she understood what he was doing, and bold enough that he glanced at her after he did it. And in case she might’ve missed it, he did it again, only this time his middle finger swiped and circled the screen in a ghost of a touch.
She’d watched him closely for months now and never had she ever seen him touch the screen that way, and he never looked at her during his segment unless Jory was turning over to her.
“We’re breaking new ground here,” Sandor chuckled.
Yes, we are.
He did it yet again. Instead of a quick, hard tap to zoom out the map, he bundled two fingers together and caressed the screen with a tender, tight circle.
“If this can be secured, it’s the money shot,” Sandor commented and turned back to the camera. “But there’s a lot of ground to cover, so don’t get too aroused yet.”
The last bit came sultry and with a faint grin. Sandor Clegane was a smart man. He was deliberate. Calculated. He’d been doing this a long time and, while had he never done some of these things before, Sansa sensed—no, knew—he was doing this on purpose.
Her heart beat loud in her chest. She fought the urge to fan herself with the stack of papers in front of her. The lights were blistering hot again. She licked her bottom lip.
“We’ll monitor these key counties as the night continues and votes are tallied,” Jory said. Perhaps even he knew this was an unprecedented night; not for the election but for the infuriating and utterly tantalizing way Sandor conducted himself on camera. It was driving Sansa wild.
“Let’s quickly check in with Sansa Stark to get an update on when we might expect more votes out of Highgarden. Then I want to come back to the map and have Sandor walk through what we’re seeing there.”
Her spine straightened and Sansa fixed her face well before her producer got the chance to remind her. She could do this. Easy peasy. Sandor was merely a co-worker. That was it. He was only human and just a co-worker.
“Thank you, Jory. We are watching Highgarden closely,” Sansa began, positively pleased with herself and the poise she managed. “As you know, there are still tens of thousands of votes outstanding that could be the deciding factor in that state and for this election.”
Sansa allowed a measured smile to creep across her lips. Sandor was watching her. He scratched the stubble on his chin again. She pushed out her breasts. Two could play this game. She tossed her hair over her shoulder to reveal her neck, her own unprecedented move. In the shadowy regions of the studio, the producer stirred. She didn’t care. In her periphery, Sandor stirred, shifting on his feet and fidgeting as he listened to her. He never fidgeted.
“We have heard from election officials there that they expect those votes to be finalized and reported within the next hour.”
She could do this. She was a professional and in this job for a reason. Watch out, world, Sansa Stark had moves all her own!
“I’ll turn it back over to map daddy.”
No. No, she didn’t actually just say that. Sansa quickly cleared her throat that felt like sandpaper now. The studio collectively gasped.
“Map…to the…” she stuttered. Her skin was burning. Her pores exploded with sweat. “Back over to Sandor and Jory,” she barely managed with what little soul was left in her body. The rest departed the earth. It abandoned her with the mortification that would live on in infamy of cable news.
“Alright, thank you, Sansa.” Jory, blessed Jory, scooted right past the moment and Sandor did too.
Dear God, he heard her say that. Everyone on the planet heard her say that. Memes would be made. Tales would be told. Sansa Stark called Sandor Clegane “map daddy” live on television. Stick a fork in her. She was done.
The worst part—she had to sit here in her humility. She had to watch Sandor Clegane—a god amongst mere men—continue to work the map, and Jory laugh at his cutting remarks. On it went, forever and a day, an eternity in hell. Her skin boiled. Tears pearled in her eyes.
Kill me now. Just strike me down.
“Join us after this break when Margaery Tyrell will sit down with a presidential historian and we will come back to the map at the top of the hour. Of course, we will deliver any updates on these long-awaited vote counts as soon as they come in. Stick with us for election coverage.”
What a fool she was to think this fresh hell was over. It’d just started. The studio broke with laughter. The producer was in stitches behind the camera. The editors howled behind the soundproof glass. The old stalwart of prime-time network news—a political pundit who had seen it all—pressed his lips together so tight, Sansa worried they would seal together forever, another casualty of this horrific gaffe. Any moment now Sansa would add to the body count as she fought gallantly against dying a slow death due to embarrassment.
She slipped from her chair and wanted to collapse to the floor and slither off to a dark hole, never to be heard from or seen again. She could move to Manitoba. She could start a new life, take a new name, live out her days as an eerie spinster who talked to no one. That was possible, right?
She kept her head down and slinked backstage. Twenty or thirty feet and she’d be home free to her dressing room where she could lie on the floor and contemplate her existence on this planet and why the universe had to be so cruel.
“Map daddy? Did you honestly just call him map daddy on air?” someone demanded—a producer or writer or someone else. She didn’t bother to look but breezed past them and deemed the question rhetorical. Clearly, she had.
Fuck, fuck, fuck. This is bad. This is so bad.
“This is brilliant!” someone else hollered after Sansa. “The ratings are through the fucking roof!”
Oh good! Her dignity was a small price to pay for ratings. What resplendent joy! She could have that as her epitaph—Here Lies Sansa Stark of Map Daddy Fame, But The Ratings Were Through The Fucking Roof.
She was so close, almost there, just a few feet away from her dressing room.
“Sansa!” her producer yelled and jogged down the hall. “You’re not in trouble. I just want to talk,” he added, as if that were some consolation; the equivalent of telling the captain of the Titanic, ‘the hole’s really not that bad.’
Just let me sink to the bottom of the ocean in peace!
“No, I just want to be left alone,” Sansa grumbled and pushed into her dressing room. She slammed the door shut and welcomed the embrace of blissful silence.
She felt no better, though, and slumped into the chair in front of the mirror. Leaned forward, she buried her face in her arms. She couldn’t even look at herself. The moment played over in her head like a broken record of endless embarrassment. She’d never be able to look at him again. That settled it. She’d have to move. She’d have to join the witness protection program. What did she witness, they’d ask? Her own symbolic and very public hanging. She’d tied the rope around her neck and been her own executioner. As far as she was concerned, that was worthy of getting a new identity.
A quick knock sounded at her door. Sansa stilled. Maybe they wouldn’t know she was in here. Then again, where else might she be? Laughing it up at catering? Gloating in hair and makeup? Another knock came, more insistent.
Sansa lifted her head from her folded arms. “Who is it?” she called out.
Sansa shot up in her seat and spun towards the door. What were her options here? Think, think, think.
“Come…” Her mouth betrayed her. Her brain wasn’t finished going through her options. Only that one word passed her lips, but it was enough that the door slowly opened. She expected a smug smile or perhaps a crushing look of absolute sympathy for the girl who’d utterly humiliated herself in front of the entire country.
When she lifted her eyes to him, Sandor regarded her with neither. He’d lost his suit jacket again and now his tie too. The top few buttons of his shirt were undone as if to make an agonizing situation more difficult with how painfully sexy he looked. Myranda would kill him too. He’d let down his hair again. He approached Sansa slowly with his hands in his pockets.
“Come?” He lifted one brow at her.
This man would not let her get away with anything. Sansa closed her eyes and drew a deep breath.
“Come in,” she said tersely. If he’d come here to rub this in…
Sandor pulled over the wooden chair from the corner and planted it next to Sansa. “It had a better ring to it before,” he remarked with his signature smirk. That thing was dangerous and now was not the time to brandish it.
He sat backwards in the chair and his arms folded over its back as he stared at her. It occurred to Sansa that this might be just as mortifying for him as it was for her. Had this happened in reverse—a male correspondent making a lewd remark on air about a female anchor—this would be an open and shut case; a lost job and litigation.
“I am so sorry,” Sansa whispered, and her throat burned. She pushed past the lump there but didn’t get too far. “That was…” She squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head. “That never should’ve happened…I was…the thing is…I was looking at Instagram last night and your name came up and people are calling you that and I guess it just got into my head because it is sort of catchy in a funny pun kind of way, but I know it’s so inappropriate and…and…I’m so sorry.”
She was breathless by the end. She shouldn’t have tried to explain. That just made it worse, she could tell. He didn’t want to hear excuses, of course he didn’t. Sandor nodded with thoughtful deliberation of her apology and stared at the space between them.
He cleared his throat and shifted in the chair that groaned in response. The silence was deafening, horrible, anxiety-inducing. Say something, please.
“I’ve had a hard time doing my job the past few days,” he started, more somber and stern than she’d ever seen him. He was a dick sometimes, that was for sure, but normally hard in a different way. Never like this. “Shit, if we’re being honest, the past several months haven’t been easy, but the past few days especially—no sleep, only eating during breaks, producers up my ass.”
Sansa cradled her face in her hands. She felt like a cretin. Sandor had been worked to the bone, harder than possibly anyone else around here, and now she’d gone and insulted him. She pulled her hands from her face, but he still wouldn’t look at her. She reached out and gripped his forearm, but quickly yanked it away. Nope, that was the last thing she should do right now.
“I know. You’re right. I understand that this doesn’t make it any better for you. It was so unprofessional.”
She waited in limbo; long, silent limbo where Sandor drew a deep breath and finally lifted his eyes to her. They’d changed. Something had changed in him. That mischievous smile—the one that rested as much on his lips as it did behind his eyes—graced his mouth.
With his head tilted down slightly, he gazed at her from beneath his brows. The unthinkable happened then. He laughed. This man laughed; not a platonic laugh of two pals cutting up; not a nervous laugh Sansa paid idiots who hit on her and thought they had a chance. This was his sexy laugh. They were all sexy, but this was the sexiest—a breathy exhale accompanied by a slow nod and a soft smile.
“Okay, I’ve been meaning to tell you this for a while, so here it goes.” He scooted the chair closer to her and looked her dead in the eyes as he spoke. Transfixed, Sansa couldn’t look away. “I have a hard time doing my job because I can’t stop thinking about you. These past few days it’s been thinking about what you might look like naked and bent over that desk you sit at. I’d happily forgo sleep if it meant having you on top of me all night, moaning my name—or map daddy—whatever you want. The only thing I want to eat during breaks is what’s between your legs. While the producers are up my ass, I’m fantasizing about being up yours. How’s that for professionalism?”
“This is a historic night. Just be patient and remember this moment,” people kept saying. Everyone said it. Sansa even said it to Arya to calm her down when the results weren’t looking so good a few nights ago. Historic indeed. History was made. This man was just as dirty as she hoped he might be. This sexy beast of a man wanted to do things to her, with her, inside of her that Sansa had been dreaming about for months on end. A smile erupted across her lips. Now would be the time for someone to set off fireworks. Victory was hers. This was it.
“Wow.” She shook her head in disbelief, flabbergasted and entirely speechless after all this time of hoping and praying for a moment like this with him. “I had no idea you felt that way too.”
He narrowed his eyes at her. “You had some idea. Why were you looking me up on the internet last night?”
The thing was—he’d admitted his sexual feelings to her. Sansa harbored more than that. She had envisioned being his girlfriend. She had daydreamed about being on his arm at this year’s Christmas party. In the depths of her self-indulgent, hopeless romantic depravity, she’d even fantasized—momentary as it was—about how she might match her dress to his outfit for the party. And now she was on the hook to admit her feelings to him.
She gnawed her bottom lip and played dumb. “Just…I don’t…”
Unbelievable. Sansa dropped her eyes and folded her hands in her lap because they were shaking. Her entire body was quivering despite her whining about how unbearably hot the studio was. Sandor reached forward and his fingertips grazed up her arm in a light touch. She’d waited so long for him to touch her.
“Did it inspire anything?” he asked.
She lifted her eyes to him. “What do you mean?”
She was genuinely confused, though she could probably guess by his fingers traversing the length of her arm, creeping across her shoulder, and now brushing her cheek.
“I mean if I’m in bed at night looking up pictures of you, it’s because I’m thinking about what your lips might look like wrapped around my cock or how much of it I could fit inside of you or the face you might make when I make you come.”
Sansa swallowed hard. She’d definitely done that before with his pictures. She was a red-blooded woman, and he was one hell of a man. She could lie or she could seize the moment and make it hers. She’d already called him map daddy. She was well down this path. Sansa licked her bottom lip. He must’ve noticed. He mirrored the gesture and waited for an answer.
“Maybe I’ve done those things.”
Technically, she hadn’t fully answered the question, but good enough, she supposed. Apparently, it was good enough for him too. Sandor broke with a bawdy smile and nodded with what looked to be a kind of “game recognizes game” appreciation.
“It’s only fair. I’ve done that plenty with you.”
“With me?” Sansa heard her own hopefulness, felt the way her breath caught in her chest, and knew the heart eyes she was making at him.
Sandor leaned forward. His forehead almost met hers. She could smell his cologne again. She could feel the warmth radiating off of him.
“Yes, with you, specifically, Sansa Stark.”
His attention on her was going to burn her alive. Those studio lights couldn’t hold a candle to him. His eyes burrowed into her with a steady gaze. He stared at her lips the same way the producer stared at the catering table after a long morning. Hunger, desire, aching, want, need. He wants to kiss me. Oh god, what if he kisses me?
“There are so many beautiful women who work here,” Sansa replied. She wasn’t fishing for a compliment, only trying to fill up space with inane chatter so she could level with the fact that Sandor might want to kiss her now. His palm pressed against her cheek and, as if that wasn’t soul stirring enough, his thumb swiped across her cheekbone.
“None like you. You’re one-of-a-kind, Sansa—gorgeous, smart, funny, sweet, and I have a feeling your shy bit would disappear as soon as I get you naked and in my bed.”
Was this a dream? It was a dream. With her hands still folded in her lap, Sansa discreetly pinched the inside of her wrist. She dug deep with her fingernail into the skin until she felt the bite. Not a dream. This was happening. Sandor’s eyes flickered over her face. His head tilted to the side. He eased forward. Sansa closed her eyes. She felt the warmth of his breath at her lips and expected his mouth to follow any second now.
“I think you’re a liar, though,” he whispered instead.
No. Not this. What the hell was this? She wasn’t a liar! Sansa was many things—judgmental, passive, far too fond of rose-colored glasses—but she wasn’t a liar.
“W-what? I don’t…I didn’t…” she stammered.
Sandor stood from the chair, and Sansa watched her dreams drift away in real time. He circled around and settled behind her. In the mirror, Sansa watched as he bent over and swept the hair from her neck. Maybe all was not lost. She shouldn’t call it a wash before it was over. Lesson learned.
His lips lightly grazed her neck up to her ear where he whispered. His hands—those mesmerizing hands—smoothed across her shoulders, down her arms, and over the tops of her thighs.
“I think there is no ‘maybe.’ I think when you’re in your bed, thinking about me at night, looking at pictures or whatever you’re doing, your pretty little fingers slip beneath your underwear—or maybe you’re already naked—and you spread your legs and touch yourself and wonder what it might feel like if I touched you, licked you, fucked you there. Ask me how I know.”
Sansa’s chest heaved. One of his hands departed her thigh and slipped down the front of her dress and beneath the lacy fabric of her bra. His fingers swiped her nipple.
Her head lolled back and met his shoulder, a perfect fit. Sandor’s tongue slipped out of his mouth and circled the hollow space beneath her ear and at the corner of her jaw.
“How do you know?” she sighed.
His answer came interrupted with kisses against her neck and then her cheek. His lips were soft against her skin, a mere suggestion of what was to come.
“Because I see you watching me. I see you squirming in your seat, fucking up your prompts, stumbling over your words, all breathless, wide-eyed, and blushing like some schoolgirl watching her teacher. I know your pretty pink pussy is wet and aching for my attention. You’re the girl all these douche bags want, but you never go for them because you want a real man, don’t you?”
He sucked her earlobe, but Sansa turned her head towards him. Sandor closed his eyes and nuzzled his nose against hers.
“Yes,” she whispered, though she didn’t have to say it. He smiled; a victorious smile. He’d wanted this too. It was a historic night all around.
Sandor took her hand and guided it to the juncture of his long legs and the rock-hard bulge there.
“You want a real man who can fill you up and fuck you right. Is that it?”
Sansa nodded and gasped as he pressed her palm firmly against his hard dick. His mouth met hers, tongue sweeping against her own in a kiss that defied all her daydreams. It soared right past them and defined new fantasies along the way.
His lips were plush against hers. Soft groans issued from the back of his throat. He went slowly to savor because urgent kisses were often sloppy. His were not. He took his time exploring her lips with licks and nips. His fingers brushed through her hair, slipped down her back, and gripped her ass. Sansa palmed his hard manhood and her fingers traced its outline; a huge dick. No wonder he walked the way he did.
Sandor licked her lips and pulled away to stand. Sansa gazed up at him. He brushed her cheek so sweetly with the back of his hand. That part matched the fantasy—the tenderness he might show her in between the salacious way he spoke. Sansa reached tentatively for the zipper of his dress pants, only pausing at the threshold to peer up at him for permission.
“Take what you want, girl,” he groaned and bucked his hips to encourage her as if she needed it. Maybe she did. She’d never done anything like this before, only heard of others sneaking off to dressing rooms or supply closets for their little trysts.
Sansa delicately unbuttoned and unzipped his pants as if carefully unwrapping a Christmas gift whose wrapping she wanted to save. She buzzed with the anticipation of what was inside and beamed up at him. Sandor released a rough laugh, and Sansa tugged lightly at the band of his boxers. What a gift it was—his cock was long and thick, smooth and pink, and huge. It was huge and hard for her. Just for her. Her lips broke with a smile of boundless joy as Sansa took him in hand and marveled at his length and how soft and warm his skin was. Her fingers wrapped around his thick shaft and she moaned, though she hadn’t meant to.
“You think you can handle it?” he rasped as Sansa stroked him in languid movements, relishing every inch of him gliding across her palm and through her circled fingers.
“Yes.” She kissed the tip of his cock and let her lips linger there. She could taste the salty wetness seeping from him. He was doing it again—caressing her neck and her cheek with more affection than lust. Encouraged, Sansa doted over his dick, pressing the tip against the fullness of her lips and allowing her tongue to give a little lick. “It’s so perfect,” she told him, and matched Sandor’s eyes.
He liked hearing that. What man wouldn’t? It was true, though. He had quite possibly the most perfect dick she’d ever seen. And while she wasn’t a studio hussy, Sansa had seen a handful of dicks in her day and none were so perfect as Sandor’s. It was only natural that he should know.
He replaced her hand around his shaft, tapped her lips with the tip of his cock, and, much to her disappointment, put it away. When Sansa pouted, he took her hand and lifted her to her feet. His hands—those hands equally perfect to his beautiful cock—freely roamed her body now. They cupped her breasts, lingered on her hips, and settled on her waist. He held her against him, and Sansa’s arms coiled around his neck.
“I’m happy you love my dick. You’ll love it even more when you see what I can do with it, but I believe in ladies first.”
Of course, he did! An unconventional gentleman.
His mouth met hers and the kiss now was more feverish than before, passion on the rise as he yanked her closer and helped her shuck out of her blazer that he tossed across the room. Sansa didn’t care if it ended up wrinkled. She didn’t care if her hair ended up a mess. She didn’t care if her mascara smudged or that she’d surely come out of this sweaty like the PE kid. People who fucked behind the bleachers in high school also showed up to class sweaty, so there was that.
Locked at the lips, Sandor carefully shuffled backwards, and Sansa went with him until her ass met the edge of the vanity table. A perfume bottle wobbled and another collided to the floor and rolled away, never to be seen again. Good riddance, this was more important because Sandor Clegane now had his hands up her dress. His palms smoothed up the back of her thighs, taking the skirt of her dress with them until it gathered around her waist. Sansa discreetly glanced over her shoulder in the mirror. The black lace thong. Thank God she was wearing her black lace thong.
He seemed to like that. A lascivious laugh rumbled through him. Sansa could feel it against her body as he pressed his chest to her and cupped her bare ass cheeks.
“I love your ass; been watching it for months,” he confessed.
Sandor lifted her onto the vanity and settled between her open legs. Sansa eased back against the mirror and wrapped her arms around his shoulders as Sandor kissed her neck. He pulled her thong down her legs and discarded it somewhere with her blazer in the no-man’s-land of things she didn’t care about right now.
What she cared about was singular—how his fingers gripped her thighs and pushed her legs open, how the tip of his tongue teased along her bottom lip, how he drew a deep breath before he stood. The best part was the sound that issued from him when he stared between her legs. A quiet expletive ended in a grunt and a faintly pained expression surfaced on his face. She might’ve questioned it before but realized now it was from wanting her so badly.
The pad of his thumb swept down each of her lower lips and circled her opening, spreading her wetness soaked between her legs. She already knew she was wet—she’d been so all night—but could feel now just how much he turned her on and heard the sound as he slicked his fingers between her legs.
Sansa gasped when his fingers brushed her clit and arched her back when he bundled up two and buried them inside of her. He leaned over her as his hand worked between her legs.
“This what you’ve been thinking about?” he muttered against her mouth but didn’t let her answer as his tongue delved between her lips again.
Sansa nodded. She thought about a great many things when it came to Sandor. This was just the tip of the iceberg.
“You think what I did earlier was on accident, hmm?” he growled and pulled his fingers out of her and mimicked his movements from earlier against her clit—two fingers moving in tender, tight circles.
Sansa cried out. Someone would hear her. Maybe they’d think she was mourning her gaffe; the embarrassment heard round the world that was apparently a godsend for breaking the ice. Sandor swiped again. Sansa’s legs shook, and she whimpered. If he kept this up, she’d be asking to see that perfect cock again.
He had other things in mind, though. He kissed her soundly once more, as if loath to tear himself away, but his lips trailed down her clothed body. He dropped to his knees and tossed Sansa’s legs over his shoulders. His lips ravished the inside of her thigh. She felt the sharp exhales of his panting breaths against her skin. He bit her thigh; not hard, but enough to send shivers through her. A gorgeous sensation she hadn’t known she wanted and, if it previewed anything, it was that he was going to rock her world and he knew it too.
His tongue faithfully ran up the inside of her thigh to the juncture of her legs. The tip of his tongue traced the outside of each fold before dipping between them. He groaned again, satisfied and enthralled, and licked with the flat of his tongue now. Sansa’s legs fell further apart. Her fingers sunk in his hair that she’d wanted to touch earlier. If she’d only known. Touch it, she would, along with his thick cock. And now she had her fingers in his hair as he feasted between her legs. He made quite possibly the sexiest sound she’d ever heard as he sucked on her clit and nearly sent her through the ceiling while he was at it.
“You taste so good. I knew it,” he babbled almost incoherently between ravenous licks and kisses. He was the only man she’d ever been with who actually kissed her between the legs as if he were kissing her mouth—slow and lingering, the perfect combination of tongue and lips, sensuous and with the vigor of a man who truly loved eating pussy. This was a destination for him, not an inconvenient errand along the way of getting off; not just a box to check, but a box to truly cherish, good and well. And so he did.
Sansa ground against him. Her breathy moans joined the sound of his mouth between her legs and his licks amongst the flush of wetness there. He slipped one long finger inside of her and rested his forehead against the inside of her thigh. She could feel his stubble scratching against her skin.
“I wanna make you come in my mouth. I’ve wanted you for so long,” he confessed between her legs, as good a place as any.
“You have?” Sansa brushed his cheek in a sweet gesture to match the tender admission he’d just made.
He set in between her legs again, his answer lost amongst the ministrations, and Sansa wouldn’t have registered what he said anyway. Her body tensed. Her eyes squeezed shut so hard, she was seeing stars. She tried to be quiet. She really did. It was too hard. He was too good. His tongue lapped at her clit. His lips brushed there too. It all colluded together. Sansa muttered nonsense towards the ceiling. She told him she wanted him; she begged for him to fuck her; she pleaded for him to keep going; she shouted she was so close, so very close, it was coming.
When it came, Sansa rode that wave as long as she could, her body convulsing and tightening like a spring. She swore she must’ve spoken in tongues and saw the good Lord himself for how hard she came.
Sandor Clegane’s fingers were not the only magical quality he possessed. What right did he have to a tongue like that, a dick so perfect, fingers so good? Most men were lucky if they got one. He was the trifecta, and she was the lucky girl who would reap the benefits.
Spent, sated, and hardly capable of speaking, let alone moving, Sansa slumped against the mirror and hummed instead of forming words. Her chest still heaved with panting breaths as Sandor popped up from between her legs with a beaming smile. Sansa reached for him and he eased on top of her. As if giving her an orgasm like that wasn’t enough, he kissed her fondly and with pride at making her feel good.
Perfect timing perhaps, a knock came at the door and Jory shouted through. “You two, we gotta get back out there in a few minutes. It’s over. We’re about to call the election.”
Sansa and Sandor laughed in unison. Their rendezvous was blessed. This was a sign. The universe couldn’t possibly be mad at them for fooling around at work if this was how they were being repaid. Sandor pressed a quick kiss to the tip of Sansa’s nose and stood. He zipped up his pants and did his best at hiding his massive—and notably still very hard—dick.
Sansa slipped from the vanity and smoothed down her dress. The insides of her thighs were wet. Her hair was a mess. She did her best to put herself back to rights. Sandor retreated across the room and snatched up her blazer and thong.
“What about you?” Sansa asked as she took her blazer from him but pawed at his pants. “I want more of you and to return the favor.”
Sandor balled up her thong and tucked it in his back pocket. He gripped her hips and pulled her towards him.
“I want to take my time with you,” he said and cupped her cheeks as he gazed down at her. “I want a proper dinner tonight, to be fucked good, and to sleep well. You game for all that?”
This was the icing on the cake, Sansa decided. Or perhaps this was the cake and his hands and tongue were the icing. She’d sort it out later. For now, Sansa flashed a vibrant smile and tried to regulate the eagerness at which she nodded.
“Yes, I’d love to.” She rolled to her toes and kissed his very talented lips. “Is that a date?”
He squeezed her ass and thrust against her. “Let’s go finish this and you can call it whatever you want.”
Good enough for her, Sansa nodded and checked herself in the mirror. Sandor came up behind, slipped his hand beneath her skirt, and swiped his middle finger between her legs still soaked.
“You go first,” he said at the door, as if it mattered. Everyone knew they’d been in here together. Some might’ve heard the noises too.
As Sansa whisked down the hall in deliberate steps, no one paid much attention to her, perhaps too afflicted with second-hand embarrassment. A smile swept across her mouth as she heard Sandor striding behind her.
“Hustle! C’mon! We gotta go!” the producer hollered and clapped his hands as if that’d magically put everyone in their positions.
Sansa settled at her desk and watched now with brand-new appreciation as Sandor took up his mantle next to the map.
“Really?” the producer chided at Sandor’s hair loose about his shoulders and the loss of the beloved necktie and suit jacket.
“It’s the end, man. It doesn’t matter,” Sandor grumbled. It was too late anyway. They were on in 5…4…3…2…
Jory paused and glanced at Sandor and then the camera with a cheesy smile. “You look like you’re about done with all of this,” Jory japed.
Sandor shrugged and sucked on the pad of his middle finger, the same one that’d swiped between Sansa’s legs not two minutes ago. She bit her bottom lip hard.
“Sorry. You caught me in the middle of eating,” Sandor deadpanned.
“Well, we can’t blame you,” Jory laughed. He had no idea. He walked right into it and apparently was intent to keep going. “I hope it was something good.”
Sandor tilted his head to pop his neck. “Best I’ve ever had,” he grumbled and glanced quickly at Sansa and gave a discreet wink.
Jory didn’t notice that either. He stared at the camera and delivered the line they’d been waiting to hear for days on end.
“We’ve got breaking news tonight in this truly historic and unprecedented election. The votes are in and we’re projecting this election as a win for President-elect Brienne Tarth, and that’s it, folks. Thank you for sticking with us. We’re handing off to live coverage outside the Tarth campaign’s headquarters, where they are preparing for a statement within the hour.”
After their usual buffer of silence, the cue flashed. Their work here was done. The studio erupted in cheers.
“That’s a wrap for this crew!” the producer shouted. “Go home! Get some rest. Sleep. Whatever. Goodnight.”
The relief was palpable. The anchors collapsed against their desks. The camera crew looked dead on their feet. The only person still happily standing was Jory. Sansa gathered up her things from the correspondent’s desk and heard Jory approach Sandor.
“Shit, dude, map daddy is trending on social media!” he gleefully informed and clapped Sandor on the shoulder. “You could really capitalize on this. I’m sure there are plenty of women who’d want to celebrate tonight with map daddy himself.”
Sansa stilled. She shouldn’t really be listening. She tried to busy her hands like she wasn’t but shuffled around papers just quiet enough that she could still hear.
“Nope, I’ve got a date tonight with my dream girl,” Sandor informed loud enough that Sansa could hear. His voice carried across the studio to her desk. “I wouldn’t give that up for the world.”
Sansa dropped the papers and lifted her eyes to him with a smile. Sandor abandoned Jory and strode across the studio with his hands in his pockets. Butterflies invaded her stomach; strange considering she was still coming down from the way he’d made her come not too long ago. It seemed sweet to her, and maybe it was for him too. He regarded her with a winsome smirk and impish eyes.
“I hear you’ve got a date tonight,” Sansa ribbed and lifted one brow at him as she slinked to his side.
Sandor held out his arm and Sansa hooked her elbow in his. They walked together towards the back hall.
“I do. I’ve got her underwear in my back pocket already.”
Sansa feigned serious contemplation. Her lips betrayed her with a smile. “Weird. I wonder what that means.”
Sandor slipped his hand into hers and together they breezed past their coworkers who gawked at them. Without a care in the world, they left whispers in their wake.
“I think it means she’s gotta let me take her to dinner and stay at my place tonight and then maybe we’ll negotiate her getting them back on our second date.”
“It’s only fair,” Sansa agreed with a nod.