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hands clean

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If it weren't for your maturity, none of this would have happened
If you weren't so wise beyond your years
I would've been able to control myself


Jennifer looked up from the tablet set on the desk as her door opened. Her assistant, Marion Woods, stood there in a perfectly cute geometric dress, her light brown hair done up nicely with clips and hairspray. Marion, who had been with Jennifer for years, since she first took over her father’s business, and who was almost a friend to Jennifer. They’d been out for drinks a few times, shared moments that only two women who work in a world overrun and overruled by men could understand.

“What’s up?” Jennifer asked casually, folding her hands over her tablet screen.

“It’s time for your six month review of the new security team,” Marion said, glancing down at her own tablet, poking the screen. “You said you wanted to do it in person rather than just writing in a report.”

Jennifer nodded as she stood, smoothing out her grey skirt that matched with her black and white blouse. “You know I’m all about that personal touch,” she said with a wink and a smile.

Marion laughed a little as Jennifer pulled on her black blazer, and then held the door open for the CEO of Markridge.

Jennifer walked in step beside Marion as they made their way to the elevator and down a few levels. 

“Is everyone in today?” Jennifer asked casually in the elevator, peering over Marion’s shoulder at the tablet screen before jerking her eyes away.

“Everyone? I mean, there’s obviously some employees on the job right now, but the head of security and the supervisors are here.” 

The door dinged open and Jennifer pulled down her jacket so it fit better over her shoulders and followed Marion to the awaiting conference room. It was just like the rooms in the movies, with the wall of windows, the tv screen at one end, the big desk in the middle surrounded by comfortable chairs.

The security team was there in their black suits, men and women both—which Jennifer could appreciate. They were chatting casually with each other, some standing, some sitting when she walked in.

They straightened up as she arrived. Those seated awkwardly moved to stand but didn’t, and those standing squared their shoulders and welcomed her with a chorus of “ma’am”s that used to bother her but now didn’t.

Jennifer walked to stand in front of the black television. Marion hovered by the door, tablet clasped to her chest, watching the scene carefully.

“Okay,” Jennifer started, “we all know what you’re doing here today. I took a chance on changing security companies half a year ago and you’re all here to see how I think you’re doing.” She kept her eyes moving amongst the faces, not lingering too long on any one set of eyes, no matter how blue and captivating a certain set of them was. “And, if I’m being completely honest—“ she paused for dramatic effect, “you’re all doing great! Ten out of ten, give yourselves a round of applause.” She clapped and didn't stop until they all politely clapped their hands a few times.

Marion hid her light laughter behind her hand.

“Seriously,” Jennifer said, planting her hands down on the end of the table. “Congratulations, you still have jobs! And just keep doing what you’re doing.” She ended the shortest meeting ever with a big smile and met Marion’s eyes.

The supervisors started filing out.

“Oh, Mr. Deacon,” Jennifer called out as the room emptied.

The head of security with those eyes stopped halfway to the door. “Ma’am?”

Jennifer clasped her hands together in front of her to keep them still. “I’d like to speak to you privately in my office. About…you know, your team and everything.”

He blinked and inclined his head. “After you.”

Marion caught Jennifer’s eye as they passed but neither said a thing. Marion followed them to the elevator, stopping just as the doors dinged open.

“Shoot!” she muttered, pulling her tablet away from her chest and fiddling with the screen. “I’m sorry Miss. Goines, I’m meant to be preparing a report for the board. Would be all right if I went and did that now?”

“What? Oh, sure, Marion. Whatever you want.” Jennifer stepped into the elevator and gave her assistant a wave. “I trust you.”

Marion gave her a smile and walked away before the doors closed.

The air in the elevator felt stifling. Deacon pushed the button for the proper floor and held his hands behind his back like some kind of—well, ex-military, current-security-personnel person but it was annoying. Jennifer held her hands at her sides, clenching and unclenching her fists.

“Was there a reason you called all of us in for such a…short meeting, ma’am?” Deacon asked after a handful of heartbeats.

Jennifer’s heart pounded so loudly she figured he could definitely hear it. Or feel it, like ripples through the air. She was pretty sure that she could feel his.

“Short but important,” Jennifer said. “I’m all about that hands on policy. What kind of boss would I be if I just sent my employees digital reports all the time instead of seeing them face-to-face?”

“You’d be like every other boss in the city.”

“Exactly.” The elevator stopped and the doors parted. “And I’m not like every other boss.”

He followed a step behind her, a tall dark shadow. Marion’s desk was empty, and the wide open space before Jennifer’s office was quiet, with just a few people milling about—the mail girl and a delivery boy flirting by the coffee stand, two interns sitting at desks smaller than Marion’s, taking the calls that her assistant was missing.

Jennifer had never been more glad that her office had solid walls. Internally they were white, reflecting the two walls of windows and leaving her view bright and open to the city around her, while giving her privacy.

“I did mean it,” Jennifer said, walking close to her desk, her eyes turned to the brilliant sight of the mid-day city sprawled out below. Like she was a queen, but a good one, one who made unicorns and not viruses. “You’re doing an excellent job.”

“And you’re quite the actress,” Deacon said, close now. Close enough to slide his hands around her waist and pull her backward a step, bumping into against his chest.

“I did theater for a while,” she said, letting her head fall back, pressing against him. Her hands laid over his, her eyes closed. “I couldn’t wait.”

Deacon hummed and spun her around, holding onto her to keep her steady. She grinned, grabbing at the more casual coat he wore instead of a suit jacket like the rest of his team.

“You’re killing me, kid,” he muttered, taking her face in his hands, running his thumbs over her cheeks.

Jennifer’s heart sped up even more. “Shucks, old man, what’re you gonna do about it?”

His lips quirked into a half smile and then he kissed her. She kissed him back with a heated fervor. She really, really hadn’t been able to wait. She needed him and he was happy to oblige. She was the boss, after all.

Jennifer circled her arms around his neck and pulled him as close as she could. Even with her heels, he was just too damn tall. No matter, he walked her backward, hands roaming over her hips, cupping her ass and leading her to the desk.

Perched on the edge, she squeezed her legs around him as jackets were pushed from their shoulders. His hands made fast work of most of the buttons of her blouse and she’d untucked his black t-shirt, running her hands over his heated skin.

He dipped his head to her chest, kissing down her neck, to her collarbone, and lower, planting one hand on the desk to keep steady. The other ran down her leg, hitching higher over his hip. Jennifer’s skin sang with the touch; good thinking on her part for skipping tights today.

“Y’know what’s great?” she huffed out, hands now digging through his grey-streaked hair.

He mumbled against her skin, and he pulled back, his free hand holding onto her face, fingers tangled into her wild hair, the warmth of his palm pressed against her throat. “What’s that?” he breathed out.

“You won’t even get fired for this,” she said with a little twinkle in her eye. He cracked a smile and shook his head, kissing her lips. 

Jennifer grinned into the kiss and reached for his shirt, peeling it off to join the jackets on the floor. He’d lived a lot of life before now, scars written across his skin. Bullet wounds on his left shoulder, and lower, down on his right side below his ribs. Slashes and other wounds lightly scattered across the rest of him. Jennifer knew their placements intimately and kissed those she could reach. Deacon held her close and she returned to his lips eagerly, grabbing for his belt and yanking him forward.

“Jen,” he breathed out, but she ignored him, covering the sound with her lips and then tasting down his neck. “Jen…”

“Deacon,” she replied finally, annoyance lacing her words. He tried to step back but she held him fast with her legs. He held her shoulders, thumbs moving in soothing circles over her exposed skin.

“This? Here? Really?”

She rolled her eyes with exaggeration, tossing her head back and glaring at the ceiling before snapping her attention back to him. “Yes. This here really.” She couldn’t, just couldn’t wait for the end of the day, for an apartment and a bed. “You’re so old fashioned.”

He glanced at the door. It was locked. She’d heard him turn the latch over when he followed her inside.

“Are you chickening out on me?”

“There’s people outside.”

She was going to strain her eyeballs if she kept rolling them, but roll them she did. Sure, they’d never had sex in her office before, but if he was okay with making out in the work place then really what was the difference? She ran a hand down his chest. “We can be quiet,” she smirked.

His chest rose under her hand and she could clearly read the hint of a professional thought behind his eyes. Not allowed. She moved her hand to his face. “Kiss me. Just kiss me and I’m yours, Deacon.”

It took a few seconds but his eyes softened and he kissed her again. A slow burn kiss that ran hot flashes from her head to toes, soft and then harder, tongue tasting and hand fisting in her hair.

The tension rose, the necessity and urgency. Her hands fumbled with his belt and his button and zipper. He hastily pushed her skirt up her thighs and held onto her on the edge of the desk. They were probably being too loud, but she’d never cared, and he didn’t have the capacity to think about it.

Her nails dug into his skin and their lips hardly left each other’s, smothering every moan and gasp as he pushed inside of her. Her nails left red in their wake, her legs locked around him, never letting go. He held onto her and she kissed away any words or sounds that wanted to escape.

The air around them was hot and a sweaty sheen over their skin caught in the light of the windows. Deacon’s seasoned hands shifted her in just the right ways, holding her hip and circling a whole arm around her torso. Breaking her own rules, Jennifer broke off their kiss and moved her lips to his throat, kissing, licking, sucking, all salt and heat and him. His face buried into the mass of hair at her neck, his ragged breath heating her skin.

And she didn’t even care about coming or not because all she wanted was to be close to him. Her legs squeezed around his hips and she found his lips again, hot and salty and oh so real and in the moment. It was everything she wanted.




Six Months Ago

There was a surprising amount of downtime to running a multi-million dollar company. So sometimes, when Jennifer wasn’t needed in the building, she went for walks. She’d take taxis or the subway to a random block and find something special there every time. 

Sometimes it was something small, but sometimes it wasn’t. Sometimes, it was walking into a bar at 3pm and finding herself caught up in one of those moments people called deja vu but what Jennifer called an every day occurrence. It was as if she was more than just herself, more than just the Markridge CEO, more than a daughter from a broken home, more than the woman who smiled and painted and drew and did yoga and took pills every morning to keep her head on straight. It was like she was made up of so many layers, but this was just the top. She barely scratched the surface.

The bar looked like any other bar; it was well kept, mostly wood and definitely not a nightclub type. There were only a few people inside as it was early, even for New Yorkers, and Jennifer walked up to the bar. The man behind the bar had his back turned to her. His hair was sandy brown and longish, and he was messing with a remote, trying to get something to happen on the tv hanging on the wall.

“Damned thing,” the bartender muttered before turning around. He spotted her first thing and flashed on a customer-service smile. “What can I get for you?”

Jennifer probably shouldn’t drink if she was going back to the office, but she ordered a beer anyway. He popped off a lid and handed it to her. “I’ve never been to this place before,” she said conversationally. The window outside had a decal on it, calling the place Brothers Deacon. 

“Whatever brought you in today, we appreciate the business,” the man said and then he tilted his head to the side. “Don’t I know you?”

“Maybe. I’m on TV sometimes,” Jennifer said, tasting the beer. Not bad, but she’d get tap next time. “And who’s we?”

“My brother.” He glanced over her shoulder and then nodded.

Jennifer turned on the stool as the brother in question stepped away from the jukebox. That song from The Breakfast Club started playing and Jennifer tilted her head to the side. There was that feeling again, like she’d been here before, like this was a deja vu but not; it was always more than that.

And then the brother turned around and she stared as her mind and heart plucked out a rhythm against her ribs and skull. This was…more. She’d never seen a person and felt this way before. Her head swam and she grabbed onto the bar, following his path to behind the bar, next to his brother.

“I’m…I’m Jennifer,” she said, which wasn’t what she wanted to say, but it’s what came out.

“Elijah,” the first brother said. The other, taller, older, with wolf-eyes, waited a beat before saying, “Deacon.”

She smiled and pointed with her bottle. “Nice to meet you.” And it was. She hoped.

The slightest of frowns appeared on Deacon’s face, but he smoothed it away and gave her a softer look. Not a smile, but nothing to chase her out of the building either.

“Wait,” Elijah said, interrupting whatever was going on between the two of them. “You’re…you’re that Markridge chick.”

Jennifer tore her gaze from Deacon and inclined her head to Elijah. “I am indeed that Markridge chick.”

“Whoa.” Elijah elbowed Deacon in the ribs. “Be nice to her. Do you know how much money she has?”

“Millions,” Jennifer chirped.

“I was gonna be nice to her before I knew she had millions,” Deacon said, shoving his brother a little.

Elijah laughed and walked away to…do whatever it was he was going to do. Jennifer didn’t care. She couldn’t stop looking at Deacon.

“See something you like?” he asked after a few minutes, catching her eyes in the mirror he was standing in front of.

Jennifer smiled thoughtfully, the words pulling and tugging at her memories again but coming up blank. “Where did you come from?” she asked.

He turned back around and faced her, tossing a towel over his shoulder. He leaned against the low counter on his side of the bar. “Usually it’s the patron who gives up their life story to the bartender,” he said, amusement in his voice, warmth behind his eyes.

“I’ve never been one for social decorum.”

“Uh-huh. Well. I come from somewhere else. I got back to the city a few months ago. Eli was nice enough to let me work here.”

“But…it says Brothers Deacon on the window. Isn’t that you two?”

“Yeah. I worked here when I was younger. Went off to fight some wars. Back now.”

Jennifer didn’t know anything about war except that it was bad and wrong and those left after were forever changed. “Do you want a different job?”


“What else do you?” she changed tactics.

“Trying to get my feet under me. I’m…” He paused, that frown coming back. “I started working for a security firm.”

“Security? Like…being a guard? Carrying a gun? Are you good at it?” She was never one for subtly and she couldn’t stop herself now.

“I—I guess.”

“Okay,” she said, backing off a little.

She finished the drink and laid down a fifty on the bar top. He glanced up as she got off the stool.

“Hey,” he said, spotting the money.

Jennifer kept walking.

“Hey—I can’t take this.” He’d come out from behind the bar, the bill crumpled in his hand.

She spun on her heel and gave him a bright smile. “Think of it as a downpayment.”


She visited the Brothers Deacon every day for a week and on the following Monday, offered Deacon a job. She’d told him more about herself than she’d let anyone but her therapist and her assistant know. He told her a lot too, but he held back.

“Why are you doing this?” he asked, staring down at the formal contract request that she slid across the bar toward him.

“Because I like you,” she said honestly. “I want you around.”

His frown deepened and he looked over the paper. The salary for one year was more than the bar made in three. He took in a deep breath and ran a hand through his hair. “I appreciate it but I…I should stay here.” He pushed the contract back toward her, avoiding her eyes.

Jennifer let it stay there, watching his back as he turned to help more customers. It was busier than usual when she came here. But she wasn’t about to let him go that easily. Something drew her to this place, to him. Every time she caught him looking at her when he thought she wasn’t paying attention, something tugged deep within her and she couldn’t shake it. She didn’t want to.

“Please?” she said loudly, as he got close to her end of the bar again. “Deacon…”

He met her gaze and there again was that confusion and the gears whirling behind his eyes. He leaned against the bar and Jennifer took her chance, circling her hand around his wrist. The touch was more than fingers brushing as drinks were exchanged. Electricity jolted through her and she held on tight.

“Please? Will you let me explain?”

He searched her face, the confusion gone and replaced by something tender. He nodded once and she let him go. A few minutes later and Deacon had the bar covered. She folded up the contract and followed him as he unlocked and walked through a door marked Employees Only. It led to a hallway and he opened a door on the first floor. It opened to an office. She stepped inside and sat down on one of the chairs by the desk.

Rather than sitting next to her, he sat on the other side of the desk, creating a great space between them; a protection, a chasm.

“Okay,” Jennifer said, taking a deep breath. “Do you ever have deja vu?”

“Everyone does.”

“Right. But like…do you ever feel as if you know someone before you’ve met them?”

He took a moment to answer. “Not usually.”

She brightened. “Because sometimes I think that deja vu is just us remembering past lives or alternate lives or…I don’t know, something wild and philosophical like that.” She scooted the chair forward. “And I think I know you. Like…really know you. From some other time or place.”

She was ready for him to say she was nuts and tell her to leave, but he didn’t. Instead, he sat back in the chair and just looked at her.

“Um…do you…do you know what I mean?” she ventured to ask.

He frowned. “If I say yes, what does that mean?”

Jennifer was ready to burst. She gripped the edge of her seat and leaned forward. “It means that we’re connected. Can’t you feel it?” She laid one of her hands palm up on the table; an offering.

He stared at her fingers and shifted, moving his hand closer. And then he stopped. “This…this is crazy,” he shook his head.

“Is it? The universe is so vast, Deacon. There’s so much we don’t know, so much we can’t know because it’s incomprehensible to our little feeble monkey minds and yet here we are. And all it takes it a leap.”

“Of faith?”

“Of trust.” She met his eyes, hers bursting with earnest intentions, genuine. It didn’t matter whatever their past or alternate selves were; she cared about the Deacon in front of her. The way he chatted so easily with everyone who came into the bar, the way he looked like he could kill you with a single finger but who she’d seen kiss his niece’s cheek and swoop her up into his arms with the brightest smile this side of the sun, the way she never wanted to take her eyes off him whenever they were in the same room. Something was bringing them together. Cosmic sized magnets.

She wiggled her fingers and let out a tiny gasp when he let his hand fall into hers. There it was again, that buzz. It was like they were meeting on the radio waves and blending together to be that perfect harmony of a favorite song.

“Will you come work for me? I’d like you to keep me safe.” Jennifer didn’t remember standing, but she was, holding onto his hand and walking around the side of the desk.

“You’re really gonna pay me that much to stand around an office building?” he asked, eyes on her as she sat on the edge of the desk, pulling their joined hands into her lap.

“Well duh,” she said with a snort of laughter. “It’s all perfectly legitimate.”

“You’d be my boss?”

“Yep. You got a problem with that?”

“A slightly terrifying prospect but I think I’ll manage,” he said with a smirk.

She scoffed and squeezed his hand. The air settled around them. Gone was the uneasy tension. Whatever it was…she would figure it out, or she would just accept it and bring him along. He was following nicely now and she wanted to keep going.

The silence grew so loud around them as they moved closer to each other without a word. She let go of his hand and took his face in her hands, running her thumb over his cheek where she could have sworn he had a scar, but it wasn’t there.

His hands settled at her hips. “Hey, Jennifer.”

“Yeah?” Her eyes fell to his lips.

“Is this part of the contract?”

She chuckled. “No. But don’t you want it?” She glanced at his eyes and saw confirmation, desire, connection.

“How does this work? You being my boss and all that.”

“I'm also fifteen years younger than you but who’s stopping us, huh?” Her eyes twinkled and she cut off his questions with a kiss. Just a small, testing-waters one. But it felt right. And then he pulled her into his lap and kissed her like a starving man. Her hands curled around his neck and she felt, for the first time in a long time, like she’d finally found that thing she never knew she was searching for.

And when he’d come to his senses and protest, she wouldn’t accept it. What was fifteen years anyway when her soul hummed on the same frequency as his?




One of the best things about being the CEO of a major company was that she had her own private bathroom so she could make herself look like she hadn’t just had sex on her desk with her head of security without a walk of shame down the hallway. She moved her hair around her neck to cover the softest bruises on her throat and while she couldn’t do much about her bruised lips, she wasn’t planning on leaving her office any time soon.

She walked out to find Deacon tugging on his t-shirt.

“How’s it feel, sleeping your way to the top?” she teased, crossing her arms. Her shoes and jacket were still on the floor, leaving her flat footed and tiny next to him.

“Ha,” he replied, grabbing his jacket off the floor and laying it over the back of a chair at her desk.

“I’m gonna have to mark down your six month review for that,” she continued, walking closer.

He caught her in his arms and she resisted the urge to yelp, shushing herself and resting her arms over his. She tilted her head back to look up at him as his face settled into that loving, affectionate way that made her stomach twist with warmth.

“What?” she asked after they stood like that for a while.

He lifted a hand and cupped her face. “Fuck, I love you,” he murmured.

She sighed and leaned into his touch. “You better believe it,” she smiled, brushing her fingertips down his jaw. “I love you too. I think I always have. I just had to meet you to be certain.”

He still wasn’t entirely convinced about her theories of past lives and alternate worlds, but he humored her and let her talk his ear off about it as they sat on the couch, her feet in his lap, the radio playing in the background.

Deacon kissed her palm and then, with reluctance, let her go. “I should get back to work.”

Jennifer bit her bottom lip. “Yeah, okay. I guess I’ll allow it.”

He pulled on his jacket and readjusted the clip of his badge. “We’re still on for tonight?” he asked, turning back to her. 

The two yards of space between them felt like a great gapping maw, ready to bite and break them apart.

Jennifer blinked and met his gaze. “Yeah. This was just a precursor.”

“You do know I’m old, right?”

She scoffed. “I do know you have quite the stamina, so I have no doubts we’ll have a pleasant evening.”

He smiled and shook his head, unlocking her office door. Jennifer stayed back, out of sight as he left, closing the door securely behind him. She wrapped her arms around her middle and walked to the very edge of her office, her toes nearly touching the window there. She looked at the city, felt the chill coming through the glass, and saw her reflection, superimposed over the skyline.

No matter which of her theories were true—alternate realties being her favorite—she knew that she belonged in this city. It wasn’t just for Deacon, though he was a large part of her enjoyment in the Big Apple. Before him, she’d done and seen so many things that plucked and strummed her mind and heart and soul, like everything about her was wrapped up in this place. She never wanted to leave.

The office door opened behind her and Deacon was there, speaking before she had even turned around. “You know, I just realized I’m the head of security and I can take the day off,” he said, closing the gap between them. “You’re the boss. Take the day off.”

“For what?” Excitement bloomed in her chest like fireworks and that feeling when you saw a puppy on the street. He took her hands and held them close to his heart.

“A day. A date. I don’t know.”

She grinned. “I have you enamored.”

“Damn straight.”

“There’s an art exhibit at—“

“Done. Let’s go.”

“What’s gotten into you? Not that I’m complaining.” She walked over to her discarded clothes, pulling on her heels and blazer. “But you never do this. You’re always,” she began her hilarious interpretation of him, stiff armed and gruff voiced, “‘Jennifer we have to be careful. What will people think? I’m so much older than you. Gotta think before I act. Rah, rah rah.’”

“I don’t sound like that.”

She waved a hand. “Yes you do. Now, tell me. What’s the catch?” She leaned her hands against his chest. He didn’t sway. He was solid, like a rock. There to anchor her always. 

“We leave the building separately,” he said after a beat.

“Oooh, a secret rendezvous. Okay. You leave first. I’ll follow.” Jennifer leaned up and kissed him chastely and settled back on her heels.

He left after another quick kiss. Jennifer took half an hour tabling things for the rest of the day, talking to Marion about leaving early and eventually she wrapped a scarf around her neck, pulled on her blue peacoat and took the elevator to the lobby.

The cold air hit her as she left through the revolving door. It stole her breath and she stood there, eyes closed, taking in the icy air. When she opened her eyes, it was to a short whistle. Smiling, she walked to the corner of the building, where Deacon was standing, arms crossed, leaning against the cold granite blocks.

“Fancy meeting you here,” she said. He offered her his arm and she took it. It felt warm and familiar and she leaned into him as they crossed the street.

They were, for anyone around them, just like any other couple in the city. Knotted strings tying their lives together, love doing all the rest. Deacon’s paranoia about being caught—which was ridiculous since she was the boss and she could do whatever she wanted—was left behind at work. Jennifer liked him best like this; loose and free and happy. Her Deacon.