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It’s usually pretty easy to tell how a pitch is going once you start. Sometimes you know how it’s going to go just based on how the clients greet you and what room they put you in. If they’ve come into the meeting with a preexisting idea of their agency of choice, the pitch doesn’t even really matter. And that can be really fucking maddening.
This is one of those cases where it’s obvious how it’s going. The moment we walked into the lobby of the building, a young, 20-something woman came hurrying over to us and immediately went to shake Lauren’s hand. She acted almost as if Lauren was the client and this place was the agency.
I guess I’m not that surprised. She’s well known in various industries due to her role within this agency and her past experience. She speaks regularly at conferences and big events like SXSW and she’s frequently interviewed.
Not to mention, it’s hard to not to be enamored with that face. It’s a really good face.
We’re ushered into a beautiful conference room that overlooks the Puget Sound. Well this is a good sign. The five clients we’re presenting to are already seated at the table. I recognize each of them from the briefing doc the development team sent all of us. I know who they are, what they do, and what I need to say to each.
After the normal round of handshakes, we sit down and begin. Lauren is just as spectacular as she was in rehearsals and it’s not hard to see that the clients agree. Usually clients try to maintain somewhat of a neutral mask during pitches. These clients were eating up every word— I even saw some rare head nods.
She expertly tells them what they want to hear about themselves but also dangles some competitive carrots in front of them to showcase who they can be.
Unlike in rehearsal, I keep my eyes on her, so I know when it’s my turn to begin presenting. I’m not flustered in this environment. She has no power over me in here. I give her a small smile and nod and turn my attention to the men across the table.
Thankfully, I’m met with the same enthusiasm as Lauren, and actually, maybe even more from some of them when I start digging into the analytics slides.
“Every company believes that they are ‘data driven’. But most don’t really leverage all the data sources and insights they have at their disposal. We never recommend any strategy without the data to back up that idea. And we believe we can reach your audiences with the right mix of that research, channel expertise, and targeted content.”
I finish my section and look back to Lauren for the final statement.
“In your brief, you asked us why you should choose Altitude as your agency of record,” she states. “We’re not coming in here to tell you that you’re doing things the wrong way. Quite frankly, you’re not. You have a successful, globally recognized brand for a reason. We don’t want to reinvent the wheel for you. We want to enhance the best things about your company. By mixing old school media relations strategies, with new world amplification and targeting, I know we can move the needle for you. And we’re excited to dig in.”
The Q&A at the end goes as smoothly as the presentation. Lauren fields most of them and I chime in when necessary. The final question comes from the youngest man in the room.
“I think it’s safe to say that Altitude is one of our top choices. We really appreciate everything you’ve presented today, and I’m impressed, to say the least. Another agency has also showed promise. So, I guess my final question is, what differentiates you the most from your competition?”
I don’t give Lauren the chance to respond. I jump in without even looking at her.
“I know the agency that is in the running with us, Will,” I start. “I actually worked for them for almost a decade. And there’s a reason I’m with Altitude. I chose the best. As should you.”
Lauren turns her head to me, and a flash of surprise crosses her face before she schools it into its normal, neutral position. I can almost see heat radiating off her.
As we leave the building after the pitch, I feel the normal sense of adrenaline I always feel after these things. It’s the same feeling you get the moment you step off a roller coaster. The tension and excitement are still there, but it’s mixed with a sense of relief.
The team is conscious not to say anything or even give each other significant looks until we’re out of the client’s building and in the parking lot. Pitches are an audition and that audition starts the minute the receptionist sees you until he or she sees you go.
Once we’re out of ear shot of the building, Lauren gathers us in to a circle. Most pitch leads like to do this so the team can come together and quickly process what just happened in the room.
“That was fantastic team. You all did really amazing,” she says looking at me on that final word.
She then went around and complimented each person for their role. And these çankaya escort weren’t canned compliments, she really thought about each person, their value, and gave them validation. That’s so rare in a leader that I feel my heart clench a bit. I tell myself its professional respect for Lauren and nothing more. At least I think it is? Real convincing, idiot.
I’m the last person of the group she calls out.
“Ems. This is your win. Your strategy, your vision, your closing statement. Thanks for making me look so good.”
She says it with such sincerity, and without any hint of flirtation, that I’m suddenly realizing how much I wanted this woman to be impressed with me. Not just because of the intimate moments we’ve shared, but I want her to think I’m valuable at Altitude.
“Thank you, Lauren. I speak for the group when I say we’re incredibly grateful for your time and advisement,” I say as I give her a small smile.
She gives me her signature smirk for a second too long before moving her gaze back to the group.
“I know you all have a lot of work to get through this week, but given that it’s after 3:00, anyone who wants to join me for a little happy hour, I think a toast is in order.”
The comment is mainly for the few people here who are more junior in their positions. The ones who feel pressure to stay at the office until 6:00pm even after a grueling pitch week. After my years in the agency world, I feel no such pressure. I usually pick up work once I’m home anyway.
I inwardly smile at the wonderment on the group’s collective face. It’s clear Lauren has a strong effect on everyone, not just me.
“My hotel is right next to the office and there’s a beautiful bar in it. Shall we plan to head there? I can drive a few people if you want to come with me,” she says, looking at me on the word come.
I can see memories flashing behind her eyes. My moans, her fingers dipping into her pussy, the faint taste that’s still on my tongue…
I look away because by this point, I’m sure people have started to notice. I look around at my co-workers, but their eyes are trained on Lauren in a kind of star struck way.
The few who can’t fit into Lauren’s car break off to order Ubers while three of us head to her rental across the street. I can’t help but wonder if the two other women wonder why she parked in the lot next door to the client’s building.
Before we enter the garage, I quickly shoot Jackie a text telling her to meet us there since she’s technically part of the pitch team. Being a senior designer at Altitude, she has a pretty relaxed in-office schedule and she’s also never one to miss a happy hour. It’s one of the reasons she’s my best friend in Seattle. She has a fun, care-free attitude and an amazing eye for design. Jackie is no drama and I love that about her.
When we get to Lauren’s car, Alana Spears, a Senior VP on the PR side, is distracted by her phone and automatically pulls one of the back doors open. The other two women with us follow her lead and pile into the back of the car.
I’m painfully aware of how close I’m going to have to be to Lauren for the next 15 minutes by being in the front seat. Thankfully rush hour hasn’t started yet and we should be there soon.
As I slide into the front seat, I keep my eyes ahead, trying to ignore the heat that’s starting to rise around me.
I have no idea what we discuss on our way there. Sarah, a mid-level strategist, rambles on about the Seattle office from the back seat and Lauren engages with her like she cares. Maybe she does. I’m reminded again of how little I know about this woman.
As we pull into The Four Seasons valet, I see Jackie walking in. Thank god. I need a fucking buffer here. Not that I’ll tell her anything that happened with Lauren. But at least I’ll have a friend who’s not just a co-worker to talk to.
Jackie is the first woman I dated when I first moved back to Seattle after a stint in New York City. I’m also how she landed her job at Altitude. But once we became co-workers, it didn’t seem wise to continue that part of our relationship and we easily moved into friendship.
Even so, I don’t feel compelled to tell her that our boss fucked me in my office. Or what happened right before the pitch. Or every thought I’ve had for the past 24 hours. And maybe part of me feels hypocritical for ending it with Jackie when I so easily gave in to Lauren.
As we enter the bar area of the hotel, I see Jackie standing at the bar. And somehow, she already has a drink in hand. Typical.
Lauren heads to the hostess and I hang back a moment to see if she’s grabbing a table or if we’re doing the stand-at-the-bar thing.
Thankfully, it appears as if she was able to grab us a table because I can’t stand in these heels for very much longer. My mind is instantly distracted from my throbbing toes though when I notice that the hostess is a little too keçiören escort enthusiastic, never taking her eyes off Lauren.
I try to ignore knot that suddenly pulls in my stomach as she engages Lauren in small talk on the walk to the table. I have an irrational dislike for this hostess.
It’s hard to tell if Lauren actually likes the attention people bestow on her or if she’s just polite. She is Texan after all. But I have to do everything I can not to roll my eyes as she easily laughs with the girl.
As we approach the table, I’ve had my limit of the young hostess now not even trying to hide the flirtatiousness of her tone. Lauren sits down and I intentionally choose the seat on the opposite side of the table and one down.
“Can we please get some waters?” I ask the hostess, before I even fully sit, successfully interrupting their banter. The hostess pauses like she wants to finish her thought to Lauren, but instead gives me a small, tight smile and walks away.
I can tell Lauren is looking at me, but I avoid her gaze. I don’t need to see her knowing smirk. I’m not the girl who gets jealous. I’m not. I don’t even know this woman. She doesn’t even live here!
Jackie moves over to our table with a Manhattan and glass of champagne. She hands me the flute as she sits.
“The server is coming over. I didn’t know what you order,” she says to Lauren and the others now gathering around the table in various seats.
“No problem. I see you know Ems’ order though,” she says as she smiles warmly at Jackie. “Champagne? How classy of you,” she teases me.
I look to Jackie and swear I can see a moment of confusion cross her face. She may have missed the casual use of my nickname from earlier this morning during our design review, but she certainly didn’t miss it this time. She knows none of our co-workers call me that, but before I can even register it, the look is gone.
The sever comes over soon to grab everyone else’s order. Lauren orders the same as Jackie and soon the conversation gravitates back towards the pitch, which Jackie seems to appreciate since she wasn’t there but is the sole reason the presentation looked as good as it did.
Though she’s as senior as a designer can get in the agency, they don’t usually come into pitches. Sometimes a creative director will, but this pitch didn’t need that.
As the group continues to rehash the specifics of the pitch, I feel my phone buzz. I have a text from an area code I don’t recognize, but the moment I see what was sent, I know who it is. I wonder how she got my personal cell number.
Lauren: You’re cute when you’re jealous.
I quickly glance up at her, but her phone is already on the table and she’s laughing at something Sarah and Alana are discussing.
I turn back to my phone, making sure the screen is shielded from Jackie and Sarah’s view.
Me: I wasn’t jealous.
I see her look at the text and then place her phone back down without texting back. Her face is neutral and completely unreadable.
After another 10 minutes, I see her pick up her phone again, and soon after can feel mine buzz. I don’t look at it immediately. It’s obvious that she likes a power play, but I can’t make it too easy on her even though my hand is itching to pick up my device. Play it cool, Emma.
As I pick it up, I have to remind myself to school my features as I read her next text.
Lauren: You look so sexy in that dress. But I want to see more. Open your top button.
Sarah immediately asks me a question which makes me jump a bit.
“Jesus, what’s wrong with you?” Jackie asks after seeing my unusual jumpiness.
“Nothing. I’m fine, just thinking about the pitch,” I lie back.
I turn and answer Sarah’s question and chastise myself for acting so crazy. It’s just a woman texting me. A co-worker woman. Who’s my superior. And so, so hot. Not helping.
My phone buzzes again with another text.
I look up at her and her eyes are calmly trained on me. To others it would appear as if she’s just listening to the conversation, but I can see the demand in her eyes. I subtly move my hand up to the top button of my dress and undo it. Luckily, it’s warm in here and the move doesn’t look that odd.
Just this action alone makes me wet and I’m not even trying to listen to the conversation anymore. I’m patiently waiting her next text, deciding to just relax into this game with her. Buzz.
Lauren: Open the next one. Now.
I do as I’m told, as subtly as I can. By this point the group is on their second round, getting louder and aren’t paying attention to my small movements. Even Jackie seems to have forgotten about my weird moment from before.
I look up at Lauren and see her eyes move to the exposed skin of my chest. She licks her lips as her eyes flick up to mine before looking away again. I see her pick up her phone and I squeeze etimesgut escort my legs together in anticipation of the next demand. Buzz.
Lauren: Go to the bathroom and remove your underwear. Leave it for me under the vanity.
Holy shit this is hot. The professional in me screams that there’s no way I’m going to do that. But I know I can’t deny this woman. And I don’t want to. I want her to see how wet she’s made me this whole happy hour, and these panties will certainly show that.
“I’m going to go use the bathroom, anyone need something at the bar while I’m up?”
Nobody needs anything and as I stand up, I’m suddenly praying Jackie or someone else won’t decide to join me. That would make this significantly harder.
I know exactly what Lauren means when she says “vanity”. I’ve been to this bar many times before and the bathroom is beautiful. There’s a long vanity bench with shining mirrors in a room before you get to the stalls. As I enter the bathroom, I mentally note the place I’ll put them, right behind the last stool.
This would be a lot more difficult if I had pants on, but luckily, I can easily slip the silk down my legs and over my heels without taking off my dress. As I feel the light fabric hit my legs, I tremble a bit. This just feels so…dirty.
The excitement of putting them behind the stool makes me momentarily forget that it’s going to be hard to hide how wet I am without underwear on. Lauren knew that of course when she made the demand.
As I sit back down at the table, I can feel that my face is slightly flushed. That’s not rare with my pale, Irish complexion, but upon seeing it, I can see Lauren smile into her drink as she takes a sip.
“Please excuse me ladies, I think I’ll follow Lauren’s lead,” she says as she stands up and strides to the bathroom without looking at me.
Jackie takes this moment to gossip with me, which under normal circumstances I would jump at. We both love dissecting the senior leadership of Altitude, but right now I’m solely focused on the sexy brunette who’s currently fishing out my panties from behind the stool in the bathroom.
“So, how’s it been working with a celebrity?” she asks, emphasizing the last word.
“Do you not like her?” I ask, slightly taken aback by the bite in her tone.
“She seems fine. I just think it’s funny the way Altitude treats her. Like the sun shines out of her ass 24/7.”
“Maybe it does,” I joke back, trying to act more blasé than I feel about Lauren’s ass.
“Oh, I’m sure you’d like to find out.”
I’m thankfully taking a sip of my champagne so have a moment to school my features before responding to her comment.
“Whatever could you mean darling?” I tease back, knowing that Jackie will see right through me if I get defensive.
“Come on, Ems. Even the straight girls in the office think she’s hot. And she’s 100% your type.”
“She’s older than I am.”
“Not by that much. Plus, she looks like a Greek goddess, which I know you like. All high cheekbones and perfect, olive skin.”
“I’m not denying she’s hot. She’s just not my type.”
We both see Lauren coming back to the table and stop the conversation about her. I can see an arrogant smirk on her face as she walks with one hand in a pocket. She must be holding the underwear.
She sits down and addresses the group.
“I just saw my reflection and I’m reminded how tired I am.”
Jackie lets out something close to a snort at her comment.
“Right, like you could ever look bad, Lauren.”
Lauren flashes her a wide smile and a wink.
“Well thank you, Jackie.”
That feeling is back in my stomach. Like hot elastic that’s going to snap against my insides. I’m irrationally annoyed with Jackie for flirting with Lauren, which isn’t fair since it’s not like she knows what’s happened between us.
I have no claim on Lauren and yet I can’t rid myself of that jealous pang she so aptly called out earlier.
“But even so, I’m going to retire to my room. I have an early meeting tomorrow at the office before I head back to Austin tomorrow night.”
Because she’s going back to Texas. Of course she is. I remind myself to remember that — this may be fun, but I can’t get attached to her.
“Thank you all again for today. I’m so happy we got the chance to work together. Please continue without me. Alana or Ems, you have company cards you can put down for this?”
We both nod. Everybody over VP level has a corporate card. It doesn’t matter whose card we use, it all gets billed back to the same place.
Lauren gets up from the table and heads to the elevators, without even a glance at me.
After the wink to Jackie and the fact that I took off my underwear for her at a company happy hour, I’m bristling slightly at her abrupt departure. What the fuck am I supposed to do now?
The conversation at the table continues but it’s clear things are winding down. Alana waves to the server for the check and uses her card to pay.
“You done for the night or do you want to go to the bar and have one more glass?” Jackie asks me as everyone else starts gathering their belongings.
I see a text from Lauren across my phone and feel a sense of excitement, and relief, that our game isn’t actually over.
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